What does it look like?
Mickey Mouse plant is a shrub that is usually 1-2m tall and has pimply-textured bark. Its name is due to the appearance of its fruit, which resemble the face of Mickey Mouse because the black berry-like fruits are attached to red sepals. It has oval leaves that are 13-50mm long and have finely-toothed margins. The young spring leaves are pinkish-bronze and mature to glossy green. It has bright yellow flowers about 20mm across, which precede the fruit.
In New Zealand, Mickey Mouse plant is an urban weed of gardens, derelict building sites and the under-storey and edges of forest. It is easily dispersed, and could spread from urban areas to other habitats. It is widespread in eastern Australia where it has invaded road sides, disturbed sites, waste areas, forests, forest margins, and riparian areas that are close to habitation. In Hawaii it is known to spread from initial plantings via bird-dispersed fruits.
Why is it a problem?
Mickey Mouse plant can form a dense monoculture that prevents regeneration of native species. However, it does not tolerate frost.
Mickey Mouse plant reproduces mainly by seed. Germination experiments have suggested that although birds are important for dispersal, they are not essential for germination. Seed persistence is low, with less than 1% of seed remaining viable in the soil after six months.
The brightly coloured fruit are readily eaten and dispersed by birds and may also be dispersed in dumped garden waste or intentionally, by gardeners.