Pheasant's Eye

Adonis microcarpa DC.

Synonyms - Adonis aestivalis, Adonis annua, Adonis autumnalis, Adonis cupanioides, Adonis dentata ssp. intermedius, Adonis dentata ssp. microcarpus.

Family: - Ranunculaceae


Adonis was a handsome youth of Greek mythology and beloved of Persephone and Aphrodite. He was slain by a wild boar and his blood produces the scarlet red flowers this species. As a vegetation spirit, his death and return to life signals the seasons.

Microcarpa combines the Greek mikros for small with karpos for fruit.

Pheasant's eye refers to the resemblance between the flower and the red eye of a pheasant.

Other names

Red Chamomile

Small Fruited Pheasant's Eye


An erect annual to 600 mm tall, with feathery, finely segmented leaves and grooved stems. It has bright red flowers with 5-15 petals from August to November.




First leaves:


Alternate, bright green

Stipules - leaf like bracts.

Petiole - Virtually none near the top and increasing in length toward the base.

Blade - Cut into many narrow segments, usually in sets of 3. Each segment up to 60 mm long by 1 mm wide. Tip pointed. Base tapered.


200-400mm, erect, grooved, softly hairy at the base and hairless toward the top.

Flower stem -

Flower head:

Single at the ends of stems on stalks that lengthen as the flower matures.


Red fading to yellow with a dark centre. On stalks opposite a leaf. 15-25 mm in diameter.

Ovary - Superior. 1 celled.

Sepals - 5 that look like petals. Oblong, 7-8 mm, dark purplish brown. Slightly hairy at the base. Fall off before fruits mature.

Petals - 5-15, egg shaped, bright red, drying to orange or yellow with a dark green spot at the base. Concave. 15mm long by 8 mm wide. Longer than sepals.

Stamens - Numerous. Free

Anthers - Dark purple.


10-15 achenes in a dense oblong spike, 10-25 mm long, cream to light brown.

Each achene is 2.5-4 mm long, hairless, wrinkled when dry, egg shaped when viewed from above and narrowing suddenly towards a small cut off base. 1 mm long green beak on top. On close inspection a shallowly toothed transverse ridge ending in a point can be seen.


Blackish green, globular, 1.5 mm diameter.


Light to dark brown, short, robust taproot branching several spreading laterals to a depth of 500- 800 mm.

Key Characters:

Finely divided leaves. Bright red flowers fading to yellow with dark centres and 5 or more petals with a basal green blotch.


Life cycle:

Annual herb. A flush of emergence occurs with the break of the season in autumn with minor germinations until mid June. It grows rapidly over winter and the first flowers appear in August continuing until November. The plants die with the onset of summer.



Flowering times:

August to November.

Spring in WA.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Germination is restricted to the autumn and early winter 5 and probably temperature dependent. Best emergence is from seeds buried 25-50 mm deep.

Vegetative Propagules:



Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread is by seed. It adheres readily to wool, fur, clothing and bags. Also transported in mud on animal hooves, machinery and vehicles.

Infestations spread quickly in areas with soils with free lime, winter predominant rainfall of more than 300 mm/year and July minimum temperatures greater than 4.5 degrees C. In other areas, infestations are usually small and static.

Seedlings have a high light requirement and are sensitive to overtopping by pasture species.

Competitive companion species help reduce the rate of spread.

Origin and History:

Southern Europe or Mediterranean region.

Introduced as an ornamental in the late 1800's.



Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium



Mediterranean, warm temperate with winter rainfall in excess of 300 mm and where minimum July temperatures are greater than 4.5 degrees C.


Alkaline soils with free lime.

Plant Associations:




Used as a medicinal plant in Europe.


Serious weed of cereals and sown pastures in South Australia. Weed of roadsides, disturbed areas and degraded pastures.


It displaces pasture species reducing carrying capacity and is toxic to stock.


Contains proto-anemonin, a gastro irritant.

It affects sheep and horses with overseas reports on cattle and pigs. However, feeding tests with cattle have not caused deaths.

One of the toxic principles is adonin that has similar action to the cardiac drug digitalis.

It is not palatable and stock rarely consume enough in the field to cause problems.


Gastro enteritis with profuse diarrhoea, laboured breathing and possibly blistering inside the mouth leading to death.


Remove stock from infested areas or provide alternate feed.

Add white of egg to 150 mL water and give freely or give absorbents such as magnesium oxide, kaolin or activated charcoal.


Declared a noxious weed in South Australia.

Management and Control:

Late planting of crops allows control of the major germination by cultivation. Higher seeding rates and adequate fertilisation to improve crop competition reduces the effects of the weed. A number of herbicides containing bromoxynil are effective.


Eradication strategies:

Establish competitive medic/grass pastures and apply 750 mL/ha of Jaguar in July each year.

Plant infested paddocks as late as possible to cereals and increase the seeding rate to the maximum for the rainfall zone. Apply 1000 mL/ha Jaguar in late July.

Shear sheep exposed to seed before moving them to clean areas.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported.

Biological Control:

Related plants:

No agriculturally significant plants are in this genus. Buttercups, Anemone, Aquilegia, Clematis, Delphinium and Ranunculus are in the same family.

Plants of similar appearance:

Red Poppies look similar but only have 4 petals.


Auld, B.A. and Medd R.W. (1992). Weeds. An illustrated botanical guide to the weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P211.

Black, J.M. (1965). Flora of South Australia. (Government Printer, Adelaide, South Australia). P364.

Everist, S.L. (1974). Poisonous Plants of Australia. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney). P597.

Hussey, B.M.J., Keighery, G.J., Cousens, R.D., Dodd, J. and Lloyd, S.G. (1997). Western Weeds. A guide to the weeds of Western Australia. (Plant Protection Society of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia). P204-205. Photo.

Lazarides, M. and Hince, B. (1993). CSIRO handbook of economic plants of Australia. (CSIRO, Melbourne). #23.1

McBarron, E.J. (1983). Poisonous plants. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P90. Diagram.

Parsons, W.T. and Cuthbertson, E.G. (1992). Noxious weeds of Australia. (Inkata Press, Melbourne). P556-558. Photos.


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