tobacco weed

Elephantopus mollis

Elephantopus mollis is a coarse perennial herb up to 20 cm tall. Leaves are dark green on the upper side, lighter green on the lower surface, oblanceolate to elliptical, up to 22 cm long. The plant produces arrays of small flower heads, each with only 4 white or pink florets

Common names 
Also known as: Elephant’s Foot,
Flowering time 
Queensland - Flowering may occur all year but generally occurs in May
Native to the tropical Americas
State declaration 
Category 3 - Must not be distributed or disposed. This means it must not be released into the environment unless the distribution or disposal is authorised in a regulation or under a permit.
Council declaration 
As per State Declaration
Known distribution 

Found in Millaa Millaa area of southern Atherton Tableland, at Cape Tribulation in far north Queensland, Koumala district south of Sarina, and around Teemburra Dam west of Mackay.


Tobacco weed grows in fertile soil and in moderate to high rainfall areas of more than 1400 mm per year. Tobacco weed has spread to most tropical regions of the world.


Tobacco weed is a slender, fast-growing herb. Mature plants generally grow 30–150 cm high. The stem is more or less erect and sparsely branched, becoming woody at the base when mature. Covered with fine white hairs.

Impact and control methods 

Tobacco weed is a vigorous and aggressive weed and is regarded as a serious weed of agriculture in many wet tropical/subtropical countries. It seeds prolifically and dense masses of broad-leafed seedlings can grow through and smother healthy, thick pastures. The plant is not a nutritious feed for cattle and reduces pasture productivity within a few years.

Stem and leaves 

Leaves (oblong or oval in shape, 10−20 cm long and 2−5 cm wide) are scattered alternately along the stems and occur mostly at the base of the plant. Seedlings grow as a rosette of leaves. The upper surfaces are rough and thinly covered in fine hairs. The undersurfaces are densely haired and resinous, especially on veins.

Flowers and fruits 

The small, inconspicuous white flowers (rarely pink) form in multi-headed clusters at the tips of the stems and side shoots. Three small leaf-like bracts cup each cluster. Individual flowers are tubular with five lobes at the apex and are about 4 mm long. The style is extended and surrounded by the stamens. After flowering, a large number of 3 mm long, brown to greyish-black seeds are released, each with five, fine, straight, white, bristle-like hairs on the top.

Reproduction and dispersal 

Wind can only blow the seeds a few hundred metres, so tobacco weed is predominantly spread by water, in the coats of animals, and on machinery.

Similar species 

A closely related species, Elephantopus scaber, is found in far north Queensland from the northern Tableland to Cape York and coastal areas