Prickly moses
Fabaceae - Acacia verticillata

What does it look like?

Prickly moses is a shrub-small tree that lives approximately 20-30 years.  Twigs are ribbed and are sparsely to densely hairy.  Leaves reduced to flattened leaf stalks (phyllodes) up to 17 x 4mm and spiked.  Flowers are pale yellow and solitary, but grouped on flower heads (inflorescences) that extend beyond the leaves during September-November.  Seeds are contained in pod (usually straight) and up to 100 x 4mm.

Preferred habitats include roadsides, waste places, scrub, margins of exotic plantation forests and coastal ecosystems.  It prefers sandy soils, wetland margins and damp areas.

Why is it a problem?

Prickly moses is a nitrogen-fixer, giving it the competitive advantage in poor soil conditions.  Spines on the branches of the tree help to discourage mammalian browsers such as possums. In general, the seeds are locally dispersed by gravity. There is however, also the potential for human-mediated seed dispersal in soil movement.  The species also has a long-lived seed bank, with good germination following soil disturbance or fire.

Control Methods

Physical control

  • Pull or dig small plants (all year round). Ensure minimum soil disturbance.  If not in seed, then can be mulched.
  • Natural regeneration or shading out: This species can also be succeeded in tall canopy habitats by taller native species (not in kauri or tanekaha forest). Regeneration can be sped up by slashing, selective spraying or replanting of shade-creating species. Clear roads and quarries and maintain pest and livestock control, as plant is not readily grazed.

Herbicide control

  • Cut trunk and paint stump (all year round): cut trunk near to the ground, and swab freshly cut stump with 50 ml triclopyr (600g/L) per 1L water; or 5g metsulfuron-methyl (600g/kg) per 1L water.
  • Overall spray (spring-summer): 60ml triclopyr (600g/L) + penetrant per 10L water.

CAUTION: When using any herbicide or pesticide, PLEASE READ THE LABEL THOROUGHLY to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed. 

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