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Cabbage tree moth facts for kids

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Cabbage tree moth
Epiphryne verriculata female.jpg
Epiphryne verriculata male.jpg
Scientific classification
E. verriculata
Binomial name
Epiphryne verriculata
(Felder & Rogenhofer, 1875)
  • Cidaria verriculata Felder & Rogenhofer, 1875
  • Panopoea verriculata (Felder & Rogenhofer 1875)
  • Pancyma verriculata (Felder & Rogenhofer 1875)
  • Venusia verriculata (Felder & Rogenhofer 1875)

Epiphryne verriculata, the cabbage tree moth, is a moth in the family Geometridae. It is found only in New Zealand, and only feeds on the native cabbage tree (Cordyline australis); its wings are patterned to camouflage it against dead cabbage tree leaves.


E. verriculata was first described by Baron Cajetan von Felder, Rudolf Felder & Alois Friedrich Rogenhofer in 1875 under the name Cidaria verriculata.

Leaf damage from cabbage tree moth caterpillars

Distribution and habitat

This moth is endemic to New Zealand and is very common, being widely distributed throughout the country. Its favoured habitats are wetland and native forest, but it can be found in urban parks and gardens, as cabbage trees are commonly grown in cultivation.

Life cycle


The eggs of E. verriculata are bright green and are laid on the underside of leaves in neat parallel rows in autumn and spring. As they mature the eggs change colour from bright green to brown and then finally to red. After approximately 14 days the eggs hatch and the caterpillars emerge.

Cabbage Tree Moth by Tony Wills
Cabbage tree moth caterpillar


The caterpillar is green with red and dark brown lines. When fully grown it is approximately 2.5 cm long. At night caterpillars feed on the new and unopened leaves of Cordyline australis; their flattened bodies allow them to squeeze in amongst the developing leaves. The caterpillars create a characteristic pattern of damage, initially making holes and dark channels along the leaf and, as they grow, notches in the leaf edge. As the leaf opens and grows the notches likewise grow and become more noticeable. The larvae reach 25 mm in length before pupating, either on the cabbage tree in crevices or dead leaf bases or on the ground underneath.

Cabbage tree moth - Dan Kluza
A cabbage tree moth on a leaf of New Zealand flax (Phormium sp.)


The wingspan of the adult moth is about 40 mm. Adults can be seen from spring to late summer (October to May). E. verriculata have light brown wings with parallel horizontal stripes that resemble the veins in dead cabbage tree leaves; the moth sits with its body perpendicular to the leaf's long axis and wings pressed up against the leaf, its markings lining up with the veins. If disturbed, the will only fly a short distance before finding another dead brown leaf to settle on, avoiding the green fresh leaves. Although attracted to light, the adult moth is inconspicuous when resting by day on cabbage tree leaves, and this camouflage helps protect it from predators.

Conservation status

Epiphryne verriculata is common throughout New Zealand and not regarded as threatened.

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