Plant with leaves dark green and brown stems

Leaves are alternate

Margins of leaves are toothed

Stems are woody and brown with spots

Spots are lenticels

Immature green fruit, red sepals

Fruit black and shiny when mature

Scientific Name

Ochna serrulata


Ochna atropurpurea, Diporidium serrulatum

Common Names

mickey mouse plant, ochna


South Africa




Distinguishing Characteristics

This is an erect shrub usually 1.5 to 2m in height but can grow to 3m tall. It has brown and woody branches with many lenticels (small raised corky spots for gasesous exchange). These leniticels make the bark look spotted.

Leaves are oblong, narrow, dark glossy green and up to 6cm in length. The leaf margins are finely toothed and undulating. Leaves are alternate. Leaf stalks are short. New growth has a bronze tinge.

Flowers have 5 bright yellow petals with green sepals below them. The sepals remain after the fruit forms and turn red. The sepals, as they mature, reflex (bend back towards the stem).

Fruit is a round berry or drupe which is glossy green becoming black when ripe,  4-6 drupes are embedded in each swollen red receptacle.

The fruit is very attractive to birds as food. Once eaten the seed passes through the bird and is then deposited with the birds droppings and ready to grow. This means that these plants can be found in areas of good bushland or forest well away from the parent plant.

These plants are very difficult to kill. The stems need to be scraped with a knife to remove the top layer of bark and neat glyphosate applied immediately. The scrapes need to be long and narrow. If the stems are thick they will need a number of long scrapes at intervals around the stem. Do not ring-bark the plant by scraping around the stem as this inhibits the absorption of the glyphosate.

Other plants easily confused with this plant

This is quite a distinctive plant with its serrated dark green leaves and red persistent sepals.

Sources & References

"Weeds - an illustrated botanical guide to weeds of Australia" by B. A. Auld and R. W. Medd

"Plantnet FloraOnline"  (2005)

"Flora of New South Wales" editor Gwen J. Harden, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney


Prepared by Justin KY Chu, July 2005

Checked and updated by IEWF, February 2007