Non-Indigenous Flowering Plants in Central Australia

Mexican Poppy (Argemone ochroleuca) was first recorded in Australia back in 1845 and is declared a weed in the Northern Territory. A native of Central America, it can now be found throughout Australia.

Whilst found growing in and along sandy rivers and creek beds, it has also been found in disturbed areas around the Alice Springs region, including the MacDonnell Ranges. It can be found in areas where quarried soils and sand are transported to be used in construction or back-filling, overgrazed pastures and roadsides.

A non-woody plant, can be found growing up to 1.5 metre in height. Usually living only for one year, the plant grows from seeds that fall to the base. Movement of the seeds occur through water (such as during intermittent streams, river flows and floods) and transportation of quarried sand. All parts of the plant are poisonous to stock and humans, with seeds sometimes occurring as contaminant in stock feed.

The leaves are spiny and deeply lobed. The plant having a mottled greyish green appearance. The flowers are a pale yellow to cream colour, consisting of 4-7 petals, in an open poppy appearance. The fruit or seed pod is a spiny football-shaped capsule with pale longitudinal ribs.

Common names
Mexican Poppy, Yellow Poppy, Prickly Poppy, Mexican Thistle, Devil’s Fig and White Thistle.

The images displayed here were taken south of Alice Springs, along the Hugh River as it passed under the Stuart Highway and in the Owen Springs Reserve.

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Tracheophytes
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Eudicots
  • Order: Ranunculales
  • Family: Papaveraceae
  • Genus: Argemone
  • Species: A. ochroleuca
  • Binomial name: Argemone ochroleuca

Footnote & References

  1. Mexican poppy (Argemone ochroleuca subsp. ochroleuca), NSW Government, Department of Primary Industries,
  2. Mexican poppy, Northern Territory Government, Environment,