Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


(Cape tulip)



Moraea (Cape tulip)


  • Last modified
  • 22 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Moraea
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Cape tulip
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Moraea is a genus consisting of 32 species of corm-bearing perennial herbs. The plant poisons livestock and/or humans, can reproduce and persist in prolific fashion, crowd out desirable plants and compete with them for soil nutrients, and...

  • Principal Source
  • US Federal Noxious Weed List (draft fact sheet 2011)

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Moraea Mill.

Preferred Common Name

  • Cape tulip

Summary of Invasiveness

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Moraea is a genus consisting of 32 species of corm-bearing perennial herbs. The plant poisons livestock and/or humans, can reproduce and persist in prolific fashion, crowd out desirable plants and compete with them for soil nutrients, and reduce the carrying capacity of pastures and crop yields. Cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys are the most likely stock species to suffer poisoning under natural conditions. The glycoside causes appetite loss, weakness, depression, blindness, dysentery, scouring, stiffness or paralysis of the hind legs, and death (Strydom and Joubert, 1983). In South Africa, where the plant is native, the effects of Cape tulip on livestock result in significant economic losses, $2.5-3 million per year, from direct deaths or debilitation.

Moraea spp. was regulated on the US Federal Noxious weed list and seed list under the genus name Homeria (later corrected) from 2000. Only the species M. collina, M. miniata, M. flaccida, M. ochroleuca, and M. pallida are included in the current regulation. More detailed information is provided in datasheets of some Moraea species.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Liliales
  •                         Family: Iridaceae
  •                             Genus: Moraea


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Cape tulip grows up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) tall and has alternate, simple, sheathing leaves that grow up to 10 centimeters (4 inches) long. Flowers are pink, yellow, or orange and have 3 petals, ranging from 13 to 25 millimeters (0.5-1 inch) in length. Flowers bloom between July and November, and the fruit is a dehiscent, non-fleshy capsule. Some spp. do not product viable seed. Instead, it spreads by distribution of cormels with are produced in each leaf axil and around developing corms. These cormels can persist for up to 8 years and are generally tolerant to fire. Physical removal of this plant tends to just aid dispersal. All parts of this plant are toxic to livestock.

Plant Type

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Vegetatively propagated


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The three major species in South Africa, M. miniata, M. flaccida, and M. pallida infest overgrazed pastures, vineyards, plowed fields, and disturbed roadsides. Species of Moraea can be found in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. There is some indication of possible horticultural sales in the United States, but there is no confirmed distribution in the United States. These species with M. collina, and M. ochroleuca have a high overall pest risk potential, combining high consequences of introduction and spread plus high likelihood of introduction.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

North America

United StatesPresentPresent based on regional distribution.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Principal habitat
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Principal habitat
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Principal habitat

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Hitchhiker Yes
Horticulture Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Water Yes
Wind Yes

Impact Summary

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Crop production Negative
Economic/livelihood Negative
Human health Negative
Livestock production Negative

Risk and Impact Factors

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  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Poisoning
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses List

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  • Ornamental


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Descriptions by the Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Environment and Conservation. Text used with permission ( Accessed on Saturday, 30 January 2010.

Scher, Julia. Homeria spp. Federal Noxious Weed Disseminules of the U.S. Accessed 17 June 2009.

Principal Source

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US Federal Noxious Weed List (draft fact sheet 2011)

Distribution Maps

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