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Norfolk Island Hibiscus, Cow Itch Tree, Pyramid Tree, Queensland Pyramid Tree

Lagunaria patersonii

Family: Malvaceae (mal-VAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Lagunaria (la-gun-AR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: patersonii (pat-er-SOH-nee-eye) (Info)
Synonym:Lagunaria patersonia
Synonym:Hibiscus patersonii



Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)


30-40 ft. (9-12 m)


USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun


Seed is poisonous if ingested

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:



Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer



Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:

Unknown - Tell us


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:


Arcadia, California

San Diego, California (2 reports)

San Francisco, California

Santa Monica, California

Vero Beach, Florida

Sulphur, Louisiana

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Mar 4, 2017, trentraplegic from haumoana,
New Zealand wrote:

Lovely established tree in our yard when we purchased our property on the coast. Delicate, pretty flowers blossom at christmas time for about 6 weeks and attract numerous bees, butterflies, tui and korimako (bellbird). Goldfinch and thrush nest in it over spring. Big ups for our norfolk island hibiscus!


On Sep 20, 2016, jomarian from mwlbourne,
Australia wrote:

Thanks for some very useful posts about the Norfolk Island Hibiscus which has unfortunately been planted by local council along many streets in Port Phillip here in Melbourne, Australia! Apart from its highly toxic and irritating effects on skin, it grows multiple buds on the main trunk which turn it into an unsightly, oversized shrub and the limbs quickly sprout. I'm told that cutting these off simply causes more to sprout (like the fabled multi-headed hydra!) and they can't be treated with a weed killer. We imported the cane toad from Hawaii to combat the sugar cane beetle and toads are now in plague proportions across much of northern Australia ... and the Norfolk Island Hibiscus looks like another poor choice. Any suggestions on how to treat the buds and offshoots would be much ap... read more


On Nov 16, 2015, PhoebeDuPlessis from Pretoria,
South Africa wrote:

I cannot think of a single good thing to say about these trees. We cannot even walk bare feet in our own yard!!!! The pods pop open and then the thorns blow all over. It gets stuck to the furniture on our patio and causes A LOT of discomfort for every person that sits on it. The thorns are even in the swimming pool and nobody can swim without catching some of it on their skin. Once it is stuck in your skin it can take you hours to properly remove it and it is extremely painful.

The worst part is that the tree is not even in our yard. It is in the neighbor's yard and just hangs over our fence!


On Apr 11, 2015, Rayns from Perth,
Australia wrote:

We have a mature Norfolk Island hibiscus in our lawn which we knew to cause a bit of itching but never knew how badly the flower pods can affect some people. Our grandson and grandaughter were playing with the seed pods that had fallen on to the lawn and for the past two days the boy has had a bad allergic reaction to the fine needles contained inside the pods. He has quite large areas of his skin with welt like rashes that itch like crazy. On the advice of our local chemist we have been treating him with Polaramine liquid medication and anti itch ointments. His sister has had little reaction to the needles from inside the seed pods. Obviously one child is more senstive than the other to whatever is in or on the pods.

Its a pity that something that looks quite good in th... read more


On Jan 28, 2015, sigramalta from valletta,
Malta wrote:

I come from Malta (Europe) and at my place of work there is a single tree of the lagunaria patersonii. It is about 10m high and about 12m across. While I would agree about not growing this tree close to homes schools etc, I noticed that honeybees really love the flowers of this tree and It has a long flowering time in early summer. The tree is situated very close to a footpath and dozens of people walk by every day, I have never heard anyone complaining of any ill effects from this tree. Maybe I like this tree because I am a beekeeper and I love to watch the bees hovering around its flowers.


On Jul 31, 2014, MIKE68 wrote:

The more I research this tree the more I wonder why people ever plant this abomination. My neighbor has one that is now 30foot high with a trunk of more than 12 inches, I started talking to him about replacing, at my cost this tree with something more suitable for some stupid reason, that changes regularly he refuses. My grandson and his pals can not play on the grass as these fibres given off from the pods hurt and itch, never mind the fact that nothing grows under these trees or even in the proximity.
Can anybody give me substantial proof that these fibres are carcinogenic, they have been described as asbestos type fibre. I know that when the wind blows the fibres are wind borne and even our washing gets contaminated.
I have tried the reasonable approach and now have to go ... read more


On Mar 4, 2011, Wombat47 from Southern Tablelands,
Australia wrote:

One man's meat .. etc.

My Australian experience - Son was living in NSW coastal city (temperate climate) where these trees were used as street plantings and he was quite taken with them.

When he moved south again, I picked a couple of seed pods. Having identified the plant, I did wear gloves when removing the seeds from the pod.

Result was three seedling trees - not terribly big, but they live in pots - and they flower.

AND they have survived my very frosty (southern tablelands) winters and temperatures down to -7C.

Son and I are both impressed with the delicate little pink hibiscus flowers. This tree and the deciduous syriarcus are the only hibiscus which will grow in my area.


On Jan 25, 2011, onomus from North Shore,
New Zealand wrote:

I moved into a property 5 years ago, the neighbour has this horrible 100mtr tall Norfolk Island Hibiscus inches from my house. It towers over the roof and continually drops seed pods in my guttering - blocking it. Absolutely horrible pods that when it rains its a gooey mess. Not too mention the prickles- overhangs the clothes line, and shades completely that side of house!
I had it confirmed at the local garden centre its species. I'm am not exaggerating about it height. The breadth is huge too.
Its a nightmare. My son is an Ariel Aborist. He won't touch it!
Wouldn't recommend it too my worst enemy.


On Dec 25, 2010, hi_lectro from melbourne,
Australia wrote:

Agree with all the other negative comments about this tree. I can't possibly think of a good point to it at all.

The local council (I live in Williamstown, VIC) planted them in front of my house 30 years ago. (after ripping out the Flowering Eucalyptus which were fine...) Ever since then, they have been trouble.

- Seeds are like asbestos. They HURT when they dig into your skin. It is unavoidable; whenever I work outside, my hands will have at least one seed stuck in them, and they are hard to remove. You cannot let kids near them, or they'll end up covered in them and in severe pain.

- They are bad for people who have allergies.

-The sap ruins paint jobs on cars, and they constantly drip sap. So no good to park the car under for... read more


On Jul 17, 2010, MTVineman from Helena, MT (Zone 5a) wrote:

Sad to see so many crappy comments about this beautiful tree. I do understand though from reading the negative comments which seem to all be from Australians who were tortured as children with the pods from this tree. All I can say is: Children are cruel. They are some of the cruelest little beings on this planet. But, this isn't about children. It's about this beautiful tree which does very well for me as a potted specimen here in Montana. It goes outside for the summer and rewards me with much growth and beautiful blossoms of dark pink. Yes, they look somewhat like a Hibiscus but not really. Not sure that they resemble any flower except what they are! Being a member of the Malva family, I find it fascinating that there is a tree form in that genus. I love this tree and I will continue to... read more


On Jun 22, 2010, rareplantbroker from Fort Pierce, FL wrote:

After growing this tree for close to a year, I've discovered several previous comments may be incorrect. When first planted on the barrier island in Indian River County, we had problems with the soil's ph. Leaves were very small and the tree was struggling. We used a soil acidifier on it and within a few months it perked right up and this spring surprised us with blooms. It definitely does not require another tree to set seed as I'm sure there isn't another one within 50 miles of this specimen. Additionally, we had one of the most prolonged coldest winters on record--with temperatures as low as in the high 20's--and it handled this without a problem. Additionally, Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota has a rather large specimen planted directly on the bay. Even though the seed p... read more


On Jun 16, 2008, MargaretK from PERTH,
Australia wrote:

Living in Western Australia, I've always known this tree as the "Itchy Powder Tree". It was used as a method of torment by school kids who would put the seed case down some poor unsuspecting victims back. I never participated but was witness to the awfully irritating effects. I agree with the comment not to plant it around school yards or playgrounds (or anywhere else for that matter).


On Feb 22, 2005, Silverfern from North Shore City (Auckland reg,
New Zealand wrote:

This tree should not be grown by anyone. Not only does it pose a health risk but it should be labelled a pest plant. It seeds easily and competes with native vegetation eventually dominating and taking over as the seedlings, if left to grow form thickets. Many arborists will not touch this tree because of the seedpods which contain the irritating silicon-like hairs. I also noticed the german or european wasp feeding from the seedpods in late summer/autumn. I have read nothing positive about this tree.


On Jul 9, 2003, Lloydtreeman from Melbourne,
Australia wrote:

the fruits of the plant contain irritating silicon crystals which have been related to abestos like breathing problems and are very irritating if handled or gotten onto clothes. Because of this many local authorities in Australia have banned them and it is reccomended not to use them near schools or playgrounds.


On Nov 17, 2002, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Wear gloves when working with the seedpods, the hairs in the seedpods cause skin irritation.That's where the name Cow Itch Tree comes from.More than one plant is needed to produce seed.This plant is native to E.Australia,including Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.