Native to Mexico, zebrina is a ground cover cultivated as a decorative plant for its patterned, purplish foliage.

Zebrina is closely related to wandering jew (also known as 'trad'), and looks similar, except that the sheath at the base of the zebrina's leaf is hairy. Zebrina can invade and exclude native vegetation, and is an environmental weed in coastal Queensland.

Zebrina is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Tradescantia zebrina


  • Ground cover with weak, trailing stems.
  • Stems are tinged purple, hairless, readily form roots at nodes.
  • Leaves are zebra-patterned, 3-7cm long, lower surface is deep, uniform purple, upper surface shows purple new growth and green older growth parallel to central axis, plus 2 broad, silver stripes on outer edges.
  • Flowers have 3 bright pink petals 10-12mm long, appear in clusters at end of stems.
  • Fruit are small capsules containing 1-2 seeds.
  • Seeds are greyish-brown, finely wrinkled.


  • Grows on steep banks and in gardens, undergrowth and bushland.
  • Spreads across shady or damp areas.


  • Found in North Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Flowers mainly spring-summer.



  • Could invade natural vegetation across South East Queensland.
  • Prevents native vegetation from establishing.

How it is spread

  • Reproduces and spreads from stem and root fragments.
  • Seeds spread by vehicles, machinery and water, and in soil.


Physical control

  • Hand-pull stem and root fragments from soil.
  • Regular mowing (with catcher to prevent spread) can be effective.
  • Dispose of plant after allowing it to rot in sealed plastic bag for 1 week.

Herbicide control

  • Herbicides are effective.

See the Zebrina fact sheet (PDF, 574KB) for herbicide control and application rates.

Biological control

  • No known biological control agents.

Legal requirements

  • Zebrina is not a prohibited or restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014. However, by law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control.
  • Local governments must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in their area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

Further information