Native Liquorice

Glycyrrhiza acanthocarpa (Lindl.) J.M.Black

Synonyms - Glycyrrhiza psoraleoides, Indigofera acanthocarpa, Clidanthera psoraleoides.

Family: - Fabaceae


Glycyrrhiza is from the Greek glykys meaning sweet and rhiza meaning root and refers to the sweet roots of Glycyrrhiza glabra that was used to make liquorice.


Other Names:

Native Lucerne

Southern Liquorice

Southern Lucerne


An aromatic, perennial shrub.


An almost hairless, somewhat sticky, erect shrub to 1.5 m tall with narrow, conical clusters of small, lilac pea type flowers and leaves with 4-6 pairs of shiny leaflets that smell strongly of liquorice when crushed. It produces spiny, burr like pods that attach to wool and passing animals.



First leaves:


Leaves alternate, leaflets opposite.

Strong liquorice aroma, 4-6 pairs of glossy leaflets and a terminal leaflet.

Stipules - Spear shaped. They fall off so it often appears to have none.

Petiole - Appears to have a petiole.

Blade of leaflet - Green, glossy, spear to egg shaped, 15-20 mm long. Tip pointed. Edges smooth with tiny curved hairs. Base tapered. No leaflet petiole.


Erect, green, branched and up to 1500 mm tall. Sparsely hairy. Strong liquorice aroma

Flower head:

Spike like raceme at the ends of branches and extending beyond the leaves with many flowers on very short stalks. The flowers are denser in the upper part of the head.


Pea type, small, 7 mm long, white to pink-purple, strong liquorice aroma.

Ovary - Stalkless. 2 ovules.

Style - Incurved, hairless.

Stigma - Oblique.

Sepals - 3-4 mm long. 2 upper teeth shortly joined.

Petals - White to pink-purple. Standard is oblong, erect, 7mm long. Wings nearly as long. Keel shorter

Stamens - 9 plus 1

Anthers - alternately large and small.


Globular, flattened, 5-6 mm long by 4-5 mm diameter, orange brown, single seeded burr or pod, covered with stiff, hooked or straight spines about 1 mm long. Usually doesn't split to release seeds when ripe but may do some time later. Usually has one seed.


Olive green to black brown, mottled with black, globular to kidney shaped, 3 mm diameter. Surface smooth, shiny and hairless. No fleshy appendage (caruncle).


Stout, woody.

Key Characters:

Leaves imparipinnate

Flowers racemose

Standard glabrous.

Ovule 2 celled.

Style not bearded

Upper stamen free, the other 9 united.

Anthers alternately large and small, without glands, the cells confluent.

Pod ovate and prickly, not bladdery.

Adapted from John Black.


Life cycle:

Perennial. Seeds germinate in spring and summer. Most active growth occurs in late spring to summer and large amounts of burr like fruit are produced before the tops die back in autumn.


Drought tolerant.


By seed.

Flowering times:

Spring and summer in Western NSW.

Summer in SA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:



Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by seed in burrs that attached to wool and stock

Usually occurs as scattered plants but occasionally forms dense colonies.

Origin and History:

Australian native.







Occurs on many soil types and most common on heavy grey and brown clays. Also on deep white sands of lake shores and red earths.

Often in areas exposed to occasional inundation.

Plant Associations:

Many including Bimble, Black and Yellow Box and River Red Gum.



Fodder. Opinions on fodder value vary from very palatable after summer rains to young growth only being grazed by sheep and rarely eaten by cattle.


Weed of pastures and crop.

Burr like pods contaminate wool.






Management and Control:

Fence off infestations to reduce the spread of seed or don't allow stock access when burrs are on the plants. Graze heavily in spring. Spray with 20 g/ha of metsulfuron(600g/kg) annually when plants are actively growing.


Eradication strategies:

Fence off to stop access by stock which will spread the seed.

Apply a mixture of 1 L of Grazon DS plus 250 mL Pulse® in 100 L of water to the plant and a 5 m buffer area until jus wet each summer before flowering when the plants are actively growing.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Not likely because it is an Australian native plant.

Related plants:

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Plants of similar appearance:


Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P167. Photo.

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P465.

Bodkin, F. (1986). Encyclopaedia Botanica. (Angus and Robertson, Australia).

Cunningham, G.M., Mulham, W.E., Milthorpe, P.L. and Leigh, J.H. (1992). Plants of Western New South Wales. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P495. Photo.

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney).

Harden, Gwen J. (1991). Flora of NSW. (Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney). Volume . P. Diagram.

Lamp, C. and Collet, F. (1990). A Field Guide to Weeds in Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne).

Lazarides, M. and Cowley, K. and Hohnen, P. (1997). CSIRO handbook of Australian Weeds. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #456.1.

Moerkerk, M.R. and Barnett, A.G. (1998). More Crop Weeds. R.G. and F.J. Richardson, Melbourne. P82. Diagrams. Photos.


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