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Book cover - Common Weeds of New ZealandAn Illustrated Guide to
Common Weeds
of New Zealand


Gamochaeta spicata
(formerly Gnaphalium coarctatum)

purple cudweed


Reproduced from
Common Weeds of New Zealand
by Ian Popay, Paul Champion & Trevor James
ISBN 0 473 09760 5
by kind permission of the
New Zealand Plant Protection Society

Publication or other use of images or descriptive text on these pages is unauthorised unless written permission is obtained from the authors and publisher.
Appropriate acknowledgement of the publication Common Weeds of New Zealand must always be given.

Available from Nationwide Book Distributors

Gamochaeta spicata - purple cudweedGamochaeta spicata - purple cudweed






Very variable, rosette-forming annual or biennial, distinguished by the stalkiess leaves, with shiny, hairless upper surfaces and white, woolly-haired lower surfaces. The leaves die off by the time of flowering. The small,whitish flower heads are in dense clusters along the erect flowering spike.

  • Flowers Inflorescence an elongated spike of numerous tight clusters of small, whitish composite flower heads, each about 3 mm across. Flowers Sep-Mar.
  • Fruit Small, minutely-pimpled achenes about 0.6 mm long.
  • Leaves Basal leaves stalkless, broadest towards the tip, 2-11 cm long. Leaves usually dead at flowering. Lower stem leaves shiny and hairless on upper surface and densely woolly underneath. Upper stem leaves smaller, broader, sometimes folded.
  • Stems Erect or curved upwards at the tips, one or several arising from the rosette.
  • Roots Fibrous.


Wet or stony sites in forest margins and clearings, lawns, pasture, cultivation, river-beds and coastal places. A weed of some crops like asparagus.


Common throughout NI. Common in Nelson, Marlborough, Westland and Fiordland in SI. Originally from South America.


Most common of the naturalised spicate cudweeds.

Related species

Several other introduced cudweeds also occur in similar habitats. Gamochaeta purpurea (formerly Gnaphalium purpureum) has leaves woolly-hairy on both surfaces, and is scattered throughout NI. Gamochaeta simplicicaulis (formerly Gnaphalium simplicicaule) has thick stems and a leafy inflorescence, occurring north from Waikato and in the Bay of Plenty. The native Japanese cudweed Euchiton spaericus (formerly Gnaphalium sphaericum) has dense, spherical flower heads about 2 cm in diameter, with four leaves immediately below it, on upright stems about 20 cm long and is common throughout NZ in lower rainfall (below 1000 mm) areas.

Derivation of botanical name

Gamochaeta (Gr.) = jointed bristles; spicata (Lat.) spike, ear of grain.


Web-notes: Weed Links

On this site

Reproduced from Common Weeds of New Zealand:

External Links

WeedbustersWeedbusters New Zealand
Weedbusters is a weeds awareness and education programme that aims to protect New Zealand's environment from the increasing weed problem.
A free tool to assist farmers and agricultural professionals in decision-making regarding weed and pest identification, biology, impact and management.
Weed keyNew Zealand Weeds Key
An interactive identification key to the weeds of New Zealand. Developed at Landcare Research.

New Zealand Plant Conservation Network naturalised plants
Search for information on more than 2500 naturalised and weedy plants.
NZ Plant Protection SocietyNew Zealand Plant Protection Society
Their main objective: "To pool and exchange information on the biology of weeds, invertebrate and vertebrate pests, pathogens and beneficial organisms and methods for modifying their effects."
Massey UniversityMassey University Weeds Database
A site providing information about New Zealand weeds and weed control. It has a series of pages showing pictures of New Zealand weeds, notes on identification and control. It also provides information on a university paper entitled Controlling Weeds.

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Last updated: March 1, 2021