Native to South America, but commonly used as an ornamental plant, and now escaped from cultivation and common in many other parts of the world. It is a particularly noxious weed in South Africa. In the United States it can be found in California, and from Texas east to Florida and north to Virginia.
A deciduous, perennial shrub or small tree that grows to over 12 feet in height but in a bushy, sprawling, wide spreading habit. It grows best in very moist habitats along streams, ditchbanks, or other wet soils where the roots can be in the water. The foliage, flowers, and seeds all contain a toxic substance called saponin. Reproduction is from seeds.
Mature plants may be over 12 feet high, but have numerous long, weak branches that grow upward or laterally, falling over to create a dense patch. Leaves are up to 8 inches long, but are divided into many small opposing leaflets. Each leaflet is elongate-oval with a rounded tip and a tiny point at the tip. Flowers are scarlet red to orange, and produced in showy clusters that droop on long stalks. Each flower is pea-like in shape. The distinct seed pods have 4 longitudinal “wings”, or flared sides, and are about 5 inches long.
Characteristicts Important to Control:
Physical removal of small plants may be possible, but larger shrubs will have well developed roots, and will need to be killed with a systemic herbicide.