Centipeda cunninghamii

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Old man weed
Centipeda cunninghamii.jpg
A potted old man weed
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Centipeda
C. cunninghamii
Binomial name
Centipeda cunninghamii

Cotula cunninghamii F.Muell.
Myriogyne cunninghamii DC.

Centipeda cunninghamii is a species of flowering plant in the Asteraceae family.[1] It is referred to by the common names old man weed, being the literal translation of its Koori name gukwonderuk, common sneezeweed and scent weed which were given by European settlers but are increasingly falling out of use. The plant was used by indigenous Australians for its purported medicinal properties. It grows along the Murray River, or generally anywhere there is water, especially low lying or swampy areas. It can be identified by its unique shaped leaf and its pungent scent which is pine-like and minty.


Centipeda is from the Greek word for one hundred feet[2] The epithet cunninghamii honours Allan Cunningham (1791 – 1839), an English botanist and explorer, primarily known for his travels to Australia (New South Wales) and New Zealand to collect plants and author of Florae Insularum Novae Zelandiae Precursor, 1837-40 (Introduction to the flora of New Zealand).[2]


Centipeda cunninghamii is an erect or ascending, endemic Australian perennial herb of the Daisy family (Asteraceae), glabrous or rarely woolly, about 20 cm (8 inches) high; stems much-branched.[3]

Leaves: Oblong to more less spathulate, they are about 15 mm (1/2 inch) long and 3–4 mm (1/10 inch) wide; margins shallowly toothed or subentire; narrowed to base but petiole indistinct.[3]

Inflorescence: Tiny green globular flowers, that can also be green, red/pink.[2] Heads sessile, usually solitary, ± globose to biconvex, 4–8 mm (1/5 inch) in diameter; involucral bracts ± obovate, 2–3 mm long, apex obtuse, minutely toothed. Female florets usually 6–8-seriate. Bisexual florets 10–30.[3]

Fruit: Achenes clavate, about 2 mm long, apex rounded and glabrous above ribs.[3]


Flowering: mostly spring–autumn.[3] September - February[2]

Fruiting: October - June[2]

Distribution and occurrence: Usually grows in damp areas subject to flooding, on a range of soil types. All subdivisions except NC; all mainland States, New Zealand.[3] New South Wales subdivisions: CC, SC, NT, CT, ST, NWS, CWS, SWS, NWP, SWP, NFWP, SFWP[3] Other Australian states: Qld Vic. Tas. W.A. S.A. N.T.[3][4] Centipeda cunninghamii has also been encountered in Europe, most likely as a result of inadvertent introduction.[5]

Habitat: Coastal to montane (up to 600 m a.s.l.). Especially common in muddy/sility ground left by receding waters along lake, pond, stream and river margins. Also in muddy hollows within rough pasture, paddocks, tussock grassland, in damp depressions within dune swales and sometimes in similar sites within urban areas.[2]

Propagation Technique: Easily grown from fresh seed and cuttings. Inclined to become invasive.[2]

Traditional uses[edit]

Centipeda cunninghamii has a long history of traditional use by Australian Aboriginals for wounds, infections and inflammation.[6] Traditional methods of use most commonly involve binding leaves of the plant directly to the forehead or other parts of the body, so that body heat may release the plants oils which are then absorbed into the skin.[6] It may also be taken orally, sometimes mixing it with emu fat or boiling/soaking it in water to create a tea. In cases of oral ingestion, traditional medicinal authorities have cautioned to carefully regulate the dosage as the plant may be toxic if taken in large amounts.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Centipeda cunninghamii (DC.) A.Braun & Asch". Plants of the World Online. The Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. n.d. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g de Lange, P.J. (May 5, 2005). "Flora Details - Centipeda cunninghamii". New Zealand plant Conservation Network - Centipeda cunninghamii. New Zealand plant Conservation Network. Retrieved Apr 27, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Brown, E.A. (1992). "Centipeda cunninghamii (DC.) A.Braun & Asch". PlantNet Centipeda cunninghamii (DC.) A.Braun & Asch. NEW SOUTH WALES FLORA ONLINE. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  4. ^ "The Atlas of Living Australia - Centipeda cunninghamii - Records". Centipeda cunninghamii (DC.) A.Braun & Asch. National Research Infrastructure for Australia. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  5. ^ Nylinder, Stephan (Apr 2, 2013). "Species tree phylogeny and character evolution in the genus Centipeda (Asteraceae): Evidence from DNA sequences from coding and non-coding loci from the plastid and nuclear genomes". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 68 (2): 239–250. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2013.03.020. PMID 23558159.
  6. ^ a b De Angelis, David (2005). "Aboriginal Use Plants of the Greater Melbourne Area" (PDF). La Trobe University Environment Collective. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 2, 2014. Retrieved Apr 27, 2015.
  7. ^ "Centipeda cunninghamii: the wonder weed". griffin+row. Retrieved 2019-05-18.

Further reading[edit]

  • Blanchan, Neltje (2005). Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
  • Gott, Beth; Conran, John (1991). Victorian Koorie Plants: Some plants used by Victorian Koories for food, fibre, medicines and implements. Hamilton and Western District Museum. Yangennanock Women’s Group, Aboriginal Keeping Place. ISBN 064603846X.
  • Zola, Nelly; Gott, Beth (1992). Koorie plants, Koorie people : Traditional Aboriginal food, fibre and healing plants of Victoria. Melbourne: Koorie Heritage Trust. ISBN 1875606106.
  • Gott, Beth (1993). "Use of Victorian plants by Koories". In Foreman, Don B.; Walsh, Neville G. (eds.). Flora of Victoria. Vol. 1. Melbourne: Inkata Press. pp. 195–211. ISBN 0909605769.