Distribution, invasiveness, biology and control of rubber bush (Calotropis procera) in northern Australia

The Distribution, invasiveness, biology and control of rubber bush (Calotropis procera) in northern Australia project aimed to understand the biology and impacts of rubber bush and contributed to effective management and control strategies.


Rubber bush establishes most prolifically in disturbed environments where there is reduced plant competition. Mature plants have remarkable survivability and seed profusely. Mating relies on specific insect (Hymenoptera) pollinators during warm months (October-February). Fruit production is aided by self-compatibility, peaking in medium-density (250-500 individuals/ha) stands. Low but similar fruit production per plant occurs at low stand densities, but in large dense stands pollinator limitation causes low fruit set per plant. Each fruit contains ~430 wind-dispersed seeds. Some seeds (~7.5%) are blown >1 km making range expansion of 1 km every 2-3 years possible. Seeds have high germinability (85-100%), no dormancy, and germination success is temperature and moisture dependent. Seeds exposed to high soil surface temperatures rarely germinate, while buried seeds germinate without fail.

Overall, rubber bush exerts considerable propagule pressure resulting in significant invasive potential. Distribution modelling shows that currently it has not saturated its potential range. The milkweed bug Oncopeltus fasciatus affects the fruit, and natural dieback events also reduce populations in some areas. Several herbicides can be used effectively to control rubber bush using a range of techniques. Mechanical methods require that the root system is severed 10-20 cm below ground, and that follow-up control is undertaken to treat new plants favoured by the disturbance.

When:  15 June 2010 to 30 May 2015

Where: Northern Australia

Contact: Shane Campbell

Collaborators: Department of Agriculture and FisheriesDepartment of Environment, Parks and Water Security, Charles Darwin University

More information

For more information please read the final report summary and download the final report (B.NBP.0622) (PDF, 4.6 MB) from the Meat & Livestock Australia website.