Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Cleome aculeata L.

Herb (herbaceous or woody, under 1 m tall)
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Leaves and flowers. © CSIRO
Fruit. CC-BY J.L. Dowe
Herbarium specimen showing flowers and fruit. © CSIRO

Linnaeus, C. (1767) Systema Naturae Edn. 12 2: 232. Type: Habitat in America. D. Zaega.

Common name

Prickly Spider Flower


Erect annual herb up to 50 cm tall, with prickles on stem.


Leaves mostly trifoliolate with simple leaves or bracts produced below each flower. Leaflet blades 48-85 x 28-45 mm, leaflet stalks nil or 2-3 mm long. Stipules spiny, curved, 1-3 mm long.


Pedicels 20-30 mm long, flowers 10-12 mm diam. Calyx lobes about 3 mm long. Corolla lobes 6-7 mm long, clawed, i.e. stalked. Anthers about 2 mm long, filaments about 4 mm long. Pollen yellow. Stamens and ovary seated on a green disk. Ovary about 2 mm long. Stigma sessile. Ovules numerous on each placenta.


Fruits about 4-6 mm long. Seeds numerous in each fruit, each seed about 2 mm diam., coiled like a snail and transversely ribbed but not extending completely across the seed. Funicle white.


Features not available.

Distribution and Ecology

An introduced species originally from Mexico and South America now naturalised in the NT (possibly), CYP (possibly), NEQ and CEQ. Altitudinal range 10-200 m. Usually grows in openings in rainforest, mixed forest and Eucalypt forest also in various types of woodland and creek beds.

Natural History & Notes

A weed of cultivation and agriculture.

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