Plants of
South Australia
Alternanthera sp. A Flora of New South Wales (M.Gray 5187)
Hairy Joyweed,
Downy Pigweed
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
Least concern
Near threatened
Critically endangered
Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock painting: 1

Common names

Hairy Joyweed

Downy Pigweed


Alternanthera from the Latin 'alternus' meaning alternate and 'anthera' meaning anthers, referring to the filaments without anthers often alternate with fertile stamens. The species refer to the manual script name distinguishing it from other species in the genus.

Distribution and status

Found in the southern part of South Australia on Kangaroo Island, southern Mount Lofty Ranges, Murrayland and the upper South-east, growing on clayey, often gilgai, soils of the Riverina and closely adjacent areas and on drier clays and clay-loams. Also found in New South Wales and Victoria. Native. Uncommon in South Australia. Uncommon in Victoria. Common in the other states.
Herbarium regions: Murray, Southern Lofty, Kangaroo Island, South Eastern
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Kangaroo Island, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, South East
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Prostrate perennial herb with sparsely hairy stems especially at the nodes. Leaves ovate to oblong-ovate or obovate, to 5 cm long and 6 mm wide. Inflorescence in axillary ovoid clusters white or pinkish flowers to 10 mm long. Flowering between November and April. Fruits are pale brown, semi-flat, ovoid to 1.5 mm long with 5 papery bracts. Seed embryo type is peripheral.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between January and May. Collect mature fruits, those that are turning a pale straw colour and contain very small brown seeds. Can collect individual spike or break off the whole stem. Place the fruit in a tray and leave to dry for a few weeks. Then rub the fruits gently by hand to dislodge the seeds. Use a sieve to separate the unwanted material. Be careful as the seeds are very small, less than 2 mm across. Store the seeds with a desiccant such as dried silica beads or dry rice, in an air tight container in a cool and dry place. Not all fruit will contain a seed. Seed viability can be high but seed availability can be low. Seeds are non-dormant, viable seed should germinate readily.