Stinking mayweed

Scientific name: Anthemis cotula
  • Key characteristics
  • Biology
  • Impacts
  • Control
  • Further information

  • Stinking mayweed has a very strong, unpleasant smell when its leaves are crushed
  •  Plants are usually 25-30 cm tall and the flower heads 2-3 cm in diameter
  • Large daisy-like flowers have a yellow centre with white rays and leaves are divided into fine narrow segments
  • Small bristles on the raised central portion of the flower head remain after the seeds have fallen
  • Can be fairly erect in flower or well branched and bushy.


  • Native habitat ranges from southern Europe to western Siberia where it grows in both natural and agricultural environments
  • Has been introduced to the USA, Canada, Argentina, and Australia as well as to New Zealand.

Life cycle

  • Stinking mayweed is usually a summer-growing annual but seeds germinate at any time of the year when adequate moisture is available
  • Plants usually die after flowering and setting seed. Where flowering is prevented by grazing or cutting, stinking mayweed may survive through winter
  • Seedlings are weak, slow-growing and cannot survive in competitive pasture
  • Stinking mayweed often grows in pugged and disturbed areas, in particular holding pens and stock yards, and it is also common in newly sown grass especially near such areas.


  • Decoctions from flowers and leaves have been used as an insecticide
  • Extracts from stinking mayweed are reputed to have an antibacterial effect and show activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.


  • Stinking mayweed is common in open pastures, waste areas, farmyards and roadsides throughout the North Island and northern South Island
  • Can be a significant weed in pasture, especially in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, and also in cereal crops in the South Island.
  • Can cause taint in some arable crops

Impact on pasture

  • Highly unpalatable to all stock
  • Cattle avoid stinking mayweed and sheep will eat it only under intense grazing pressure

Grazing management

  • Grazing management can provide a measure of control and maintaining a vigorous and dense pasture sward can help prevent invasion of stinking mayweed
  • Rotational sheep grazing has been more successful in checking/eliminating stinking mayweed than a set stocking regime.

Chemical control

  • Stinking mayweed is fairly tolerant of phenoxy herbicides like MCPA, MCPB, 2,4-D or 2-4DB
  • The herbicide bentazone has provided good control of stinking mayweed, particularly of seedlings, with only temporary suppression of pasture growth (adding a wetting agent is recommended, especially for more mature plants)
  • The weed is susceptible to dicamba and herbicide mixtures containing this chemical give reasonable selective control in cereal crops, but will damage clovers
  • Lucerne can be sprayed with paraquat when dormant in winter for effective control
  • Herbicide products containing bromoxynil also provide good control in cereal crops
  • Stinking mayweed is susceptible to many residual herbicides used in field and horticultural crops.


Active ingredient When to apply Residual effect Grass damage Clover damage
2,4-D amine Jun – Aug Slight No Slight
bentazone Jun – Aug Slight No No
bentazone/MCPB Jun – Aug Slight No Very slight
bromoxynil/ioxynil Jun – Aug None No Severe
dicamba Jun – Aug Severe No Severe
mecoprop/diclhorprop/MCPA Jun – Aug Yes No Severe

Consult your farm consultant, industry rep or the New Zealand Agrichemical Manual for more information about chemical control.

  • Popay I, Champion P, James T 2010. An illustrated guide to common weeds of New Zealand. New Zealand Plant Protection Society, Christchurch, New Zealand. 416 p.
  • Young S 2013. New Zealand Novachem agrichemical manual. Agrimedia Ltd., Christchurch, New Zealand. 767 p.