Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Furcraea foetida
(Mauritius hemp)

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Datasheet

Furcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 11 June 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Furcraea foetida
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Mauritius hemp
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • F. foetida is an evergreen perennial subshrub. From the 1690s to the 1920s, F. foetida was taken from its native Central America and spread worldwide for economic purposes (fibre). It is now also plant...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Furcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit, with human for scale.  Maliko Gulch, Maui.  March 2013
TitleHabit
CaptionFurcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit, with human for scale. Maliko Gulch, Maui. March 2013
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Furcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit, with human for scale.  Maliko Gulch, Maui.  March 2013
HabitFurcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit, with human for scale. Maliko Gulch, Maui. March 2013©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Furcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit. Maliko Gulch, Maui.  March 2013
TitleHabit
CaptionFurcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit. Maliko Gulch, Maui. March 2013
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Furcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit. Maliko Gulch, Maui.  March 2013
HabitFurcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit. Maliko Gulch, Maui. March 2013©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Furcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp)  Invasive, habit. Poelua West Maui, Maui.  July 2009
TitleInvasive, habit
CaptionFurcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp) Invasive, habit. Poelua West Maui, Maui. July 2009
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Furcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp)  Invasive, habit. Poelua West Maui, Maui.  July 2009
Invasive, habitFurcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp) Invasive, habit. Poelua West Maui, Maui. July 2009©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Furcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit in pasture. Keokea, Maui.  May 2009
TitleHabit in pasture
CaptionFurcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit in pasture. Keokea, Maui. May 2009
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Furcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit in pasture. Keokea, Maui.  May 2009
Habit in pastureFurcraea foetida (Mauritius hemp); habit in pasture. Keokea, Maui. May 2009©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Furcraea foetida (L.) Haw.

Preferred Common Name

  • Mauritius hemp

Other Scientific Names

  • Agave commelyni Salm-Dyck
  • Agave foetida L.
  • Agave gigantea (Vent.) D.Dietr.
  • Agave madagascariensis (Haw.) Salm-Dyck
  • Aloe foetida (L.) Crantz
  • Fourcroya gigantea (Vent.) Hook
  • Funium piliferum Willemet
  • Furcraea atroviridis Jacobi & Goeff.
  • Furcraea barillettii Jacobi
  • Furcraea commelyni (Salm-Dyck) Kunth
  • Furcraea gigantea Vent.
  • Furcraea gigantea var. mediopicta Trel.
  • Furcraea madagascariensis Haw.
  • Furcraea viridis Hemsl.
  • Furcraea watsoniana Sander

International Common Names

  • English: cabuya; female karata; giant cabuya; green-aloe
  • Spanish: cáñamo de Mauritania; cocuisa; mayuey criollo; pita floja; pita gigante
  • French: aloès vert; chanvre de Maurice; choca vert; sisal de Maurice
  • Portuguese: cânhamo-da-mauritânia; furcroia; pita; piteira-amarela

Local Common Names

  • Comoros: agave; sisal
  • Cuba: henequén de Haiti
  • Germany: Mauritiushanf
  • India: gheequar; sisal; vilayati
  • Martinique: fausse salseparille
  • Sweden: mauritiushampa
  • Vietnam: agao to; thùa thoi

Summary of Invasiveness

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F. foetida is an evergreen perennial subshrub. From the 1690s to the 1920s, F. foetida was taken from its native Central America and spread worldwide for economic purposes (fibre). It is now also planted as an ornamental. It has established wild populations in many oceanic islands, and all continents in tropical to subtropical climates. F. foetida can establish dense impenetrable thickets (each plant can reach 3 metres across) on most well drained soils including rocks and sand. In the right conditions it can displace native vegetation. Due to its infrequent flowering, there is a lag-phase for establishment, but its reproduction by bulbils strongly promotes spread locally if it is not controlled.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Liliales
  •                         Family: Asparagaceae
  •                             Genus: Furcraea
  •                                 Species: Furcraea foetida

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Most of the nomenclatural difficulties for Furcraea foetida seem to have been corrected before the 1920s. Furcraea gigantea and Agave gigantea are synonyms that have been used extensively in the literature, even recently. It is believed that much of the confusion about names up to 1915 is related to botanists observing the plant in different contexts, or without knowing the history of its human-mediated dispersal. This in turn has led to some confusion in determining the native range of F. foetida (see Distribution). For example, the common name (Mauritius hemp) and two synonyms (Agave madagascariensis and Furcraea madagascariensis) are presumably derived from its importance as a commodity in Madagascar and Mauritius, rather than being an indication of its native range.

F. foetida is also recorded as being in the Agavaceae family, and there are numerous Agave species that are similar. GRIN (2015) describes F. foetida in the family Asparagaceae (subfamily Agavoideae) as well as in the family Agavaceae.

Description

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Following Wagner et al. (1999):

Leaves are bright green, rigid, straight or curved, up to 2-2.5 m long, 14-20 cm wide, with a few widely spaced marginal prickles, especially toward base; these are 4-10 mm long, apex with a short blunt spine. Flowers strongly fragrant, in inflorescences 6-12 m long, bulbils usually formed after flowering; sepals white to green-white or pale yellow-green, 2.5-3.3 cm long, outer ones 1-1.4 cm wide, inner ones 1.4-1.8 cm wide. Fruit an ellipsoid-trigonous capsule, loculicidally 3-valved, with numerous but rarely produced seeds. Seeds flat, black.

Other online descriptions of F. foetida are available from the Flora of North America (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2013), Vaughan (2011), Verhoek and Hess (2002) and Wagner et al. (1999).

Plant Type

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Perennial
Succulent
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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This plant is native to Central America and most likely to the northern-most part of South America. The adoption of F. foetida as a fibre plant, an ornamental and a living fence, since as early as the 1600s (and perhaps even before by indigenous cultures) has caused it to be spread widely across all continents except Antarctica.

Its early spread probably led to it being described as native in the northern Caribbean Islands (e.g. Haiti, Cuba and Puerto Rico), Brazil and perhaps elsewhere in South America, where it is now regarded as introduced. Some or much of its distribution in Colombia and Venezuela may be largely attributable to human-mediated spread (Drummond, 1907). It may be native in the Antilles islands closest to South America, but this is unclear.

It can be confidently said that F. foetida is native in Central America, Colombia, the Guianas, and Suriname and most likely the islands closest to the coast of northern South America.  A checklist for Bolivia claims it is native there (Missouri Botanic Gardens, 2013), but it is most likely introduced there and in the rest of South America where it is known to occur.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

IndiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentIntroducedPandey and Diwakar, 2008
-KeralaPresentIntroduced Invasive Vikraman et al., 2008Garden escape
-West BengalLocalisedIntroducedDrummond and Prain, 1907Naturalized
IndonesiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-SumatraPresentIntroducedSupardi, 2013Growing in Bengkulu
PakistanPresentIntroducedAkhter and Ghazanfar, 1984; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2013Present in checklist
SingaporePresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Chong et al., 2009In cultivation only
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedMabberley, 1997
TaiwanPresentIntroducedBoufford et al., 2003
VietnamPresentIntroducedBVN, 2013

Africa

AlgeriaPresentIntroducedDrummond, 1907
AngolaPresentIntroducedFigueiredo and Smith, 2008
BeninPresentIntroducedAkoegninou et al., 2006
Cape VerdePresent2013Introduced Invasive Duarte et al., 2005; Govaerts and Barker, 2013; Marrero and Almeida, 2013
ComorosWidespreadNative Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2013
CongoPresentIntroducedGovaerts and Barker, 2013
GhanaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013Herbarium record
MadagascarPresentIntroducedFischer and Theisen, 2000; Govaerts and Barker, 2013
MauritiusWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Kueffer et al., 2004
NigeriaPresentIntroducedBond, 1945Used as a live fence
RéunionWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Baret et al., 2006Much of the available habitat has already been invaded; Forms impenetrable thickets in forests
Rodriguez IslandWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Showler et al., 2002Almost 20% cover in 100 plots
RwandaPresentIntroducedGovaerts and Barker, 2013
Saint HelenaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Brown, 1982
Sao Tome and PrincipePresent1944Introduced Invasive Figueiredo et al., 2011
SenegalPresentIntroducedGovaerts and Barker, 2013
SeychellesWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Fosberg, 1983; Hill, 2002Common on some islands, found on 7
South AfricaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Crouch and Smith, 2011; Department of Environmental Affairs, 2013Locally very abundant; An early detection and rapid response target
Spain
-Canary IslandsLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Elorza et al., 2005; Santos-Guerra et al., 2013Invasive in semi-urban areas; Naturalized
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedHarris, 1936Damaged by the sisal weevil
-ZanzibarPresentIntroducedFitzgerald, 1898Grows well in Zanzibar
ZimbabweLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Hyde et al., 2013Forms fairly extensive colonies in secondary vegetation

North America

USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Wunderlin and Hansen, 2012South Florida, locally invasive
-HawaiiWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Imada, 2012All major islands

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaWidespreadNative Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2013
CubaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedGovaerts and Barker, 2013
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
JamaicaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
MartiniquePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Netherlands AntillesPresentNativeGovaerts and Barker, 2013
PanamaWidespreadNative Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2013
Puerto RicoWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Francis, 2003Refers to this species as native, but it is also believed to be introduced
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroducedGovaerts and Barker, 2013
Trinidad and TobagoPresentNativeGovaerts and Barker, 2013

South America

BoliviaWidespreadIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2013Reference claims it is native, but literature consensus is that it is invasive
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AmapaPresentIntroducedSmithsonian, 2013Herbarium record
-BahiaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Pirani and Lopes, 2013Widely naturalized in: High altitude grassland, grassland, cerrado rock outcrop vegetation
-CearaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Pirani and Lopes, 2013Widely naturalized in: High altitude grassland, grassland, cerrado rock outcrop vegetation
-Espirito SantoWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Pirani and Lopes, 2013Widely naturalized in: High altitude grassland, grassland, cerrado rock outcrop vegetation
-GoiasIntroduced Invasive Pirani and Lopes, 2013Widely naturalized in: High altitude grassland, grassland, cerrado rock outcrop vegetation
-Minas GeraisWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Pirani and Lopes, 2013Widely naturalized in: High altitude grassland, grassland, cerrado rock outcrop vegetation
-ParaibaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Leão et al., 2011Displacing native vegetation
-PernambucoLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Leão et al., 2011Displacing native vegetation
-Rio de JaneiroWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Pirani and Lopes, 2013Widely naturalized in: High altitude grassland, grassland, cerrado rock outcrop vegetation
-Santa CatarinaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Dechoum and Ziller, 2013Subject to control for conservation purposes
-Sao PauloWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Pirani and Lopes, 2013Widely naturalized in: High altitude grassland, grassland, cerrado rock outcrop vegetation
ChilePresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Easter IslandLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Meyer, 2009
ColombiaPresentNativeGovaerts and Barker, 2013
French GuianaPresentNativeFunk et al., 2007
GuyanaPresentNativeFunk et al., 2007
PeruPresentIntroducedSmithsonian, 2013Herbarium record
SurinamePresentNativeFunk et al., 2007
VenezuelaPresentNativeJohnston, 1909Islands of Margarita and Coche

Europe

ItalyPresentIntroducedOliva et al., 2002Growing in western Sicily
PortugalPresentIntroduced Invasive Almeida and Freitas, 2006
SpainPresentPresent based on regional distribution.

Oceania

AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Lord Howe Is.LocalisedIntroduced Invasive Orchard, 1994
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedGroves et al., 2003
-QueenslandLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Batianoff and Butler, 2002Generally invasive
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedGroves et al., 2003
Cook IslandsLocalisedIntroducedMeyer, 2000
FijiLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Smith, 1979
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2013; Smithsonian, 2013Tabuai, Hiva Oa, Tahiti, Makatea; Herbarium record
GuamLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Wagner et al., 2012
NauruLocalisedIntroducedThaman et al., 1994Recent introduction (in 1994), found on ruderal sites
New CaledoniaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Meyer et al., 2006
New ZealandLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Wilcox, 2005Locally abundant forming dense thickets
-Kermadec IslandsEradicated2002Introduced Invasive West and Thompson, 2013Eradicated from Raoul Island in 2002
NiueWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Space et al., 2004Widely naturalized on southern part of island
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedGovaerts and Barker, 2013
SamoaPresentIntroducedGovaerts and Barker, 2013
TongaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Drake et al., 1996
VanuatuLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Meyer, 2000

History of Introduction and Spread

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From the 1690s to the 1920s, F. foetida was introduced to tropical islands in the Caribbean and Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (Drummond, 1907; Rouillard and Guého, 1999). There was still much interest in the plant in 1915, when it was being sold for £35 per ton (approximately US$50, or equivalent to US$4500 today) (RBG Kew, 1917).

In Africa, F. foetida was introduced to most countries with a suitable climate before 1900 (Drummond and Prain, 1907). Fewer sites of introduction in Asia are known from the literature apart from India and Pakistan, where some plants were grown before 1907.

Its status as an invader is clearest on oceanic islands (especially Hawaii and the Indian Ocean archipelagos) and in Africa. It was well established in the hills above Port Louis, Mauritius, by the 1850s (Drummond, 1907), and wild populations were established in the Seychelles by 1900. In Hawaii and French Polynesia it was first recorded wild in the 1930s as evidenced by Bishop Museum specimens.

Its status as an invasive species is not well documented in the Caribbean islands, where it was long regarded as native. This is possibly because it is similar to other native Furcraea species in the region, and because it was introduced so long ago; most likely in the eighteenth century (Álvares de Zayas, 1996; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012). Considering that F. foetida is generally a poor disperser, it is likely introduced in the Greater Antilles (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012). This strongly suggests it was introduced in Puerto Rico too, contradicting the report from the USDA (Francis, 2003). It is sometimes said to be native in the Lesser Antilles, from Guadeloupe southwards, but no careful rationale for this claim could be found.

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Australia 1890-1920 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Groves et al. (2003); Randall (2007) Invasive: Queensland and Northern New South Wales
Cuba Haiti 1700s Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Álvares Zayas Ade (1996) Mainly near inhabited areas
Fiji 1907 Horticulture (pathway cause) No No
Florida Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No
Guam   Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Wagner et al. (2012) Invasive
Jamaica < 1911 Horticulture (pathway cause) No No Missouri Botanical Garden (2013) Specimen
Mauritius Central America 1754 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Rouillard and Gueho (1999)
Nauru   Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Wagner et al. (2012) Invasive
New Zealand 1850-1875 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Wilcox (2005) Spread from Governor Gray’s plantings via bulbils
Portugal 1887 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Almeida and Freitas (2006)
Réunion < 1825 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Much of the available habitat already invaded
Saint Helena < 1915 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Kew (1917)
South Africa India < 1888 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Crouch and Smith (2011)

Risk of Introduction

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In general, the risk of introduction of F. foetida to isolated sites or islands is unlikely by natural means, but possible via intentional human dispersal. F. foetida is unlikely to spread long distances by natural means, although it may be possible along rivers or during flooding, and long-distance dispersal by bats is a potential mode of introduction (Francis, 2003). The different uses of F. foetida make it an attractive plant, and likely to be subject to further intentional introductions. Accidental spread via movement of garden waste or machinery is also possible.

Habitat

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F. foetida grows well on rocky terrain, including lava, sand, and any well drained soil (xeric to mesic). It favours high to moderate light but tolerates some moderately closed forest canopies. Usually found in tropical areas, but also in some subtropical areas with infrequent frosts. It is recorded as invasive in coastal sites, coralline atolls, and inselberg habitats in and out of its native range.

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Littoral
Coastal areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-natural
semi-natural/Rocky areas / lava flows Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
semi-natural/Scrub / shrublands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number of F. foetida is 2n = 60 (Francis, 2003). Variegated varieties have been produced for horticulture and landscaping.

Reproductive Biology

F. foetida is monocarpic, dying after flowering, which occurs after approximately 7–10 years. About 200 leaves are produced during its lifetime. The leaves continue to elongate for about 5 months after bending away from the central spindle. At flowering, long slender poles are produced, with many flowers which open few at a time over several weeks. Pollination is thought to be by moths and bees. The plants rarely set seed, but dozens of bulbils are formed in the inflorescence, which develop roots after they fall to the ground (Francis, 2003).

Physiology and Phenology

F. foetida uses the Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) photosynthetic pathway, fixing carbon dioxide during the night and incorporating it into carbohydrates during the day.

Environmental Requirements

This plant generally grows best in a well-drained, medium to light soil, but can tolerate a wide range, including heavy clay soils. It is also very drought tolerant. Soil pH preferencesranges from pH 5.5 to pH 8. It prefers annual daytime temperatures between 23°C and 30°C, but can tolerate a range of 16-34°C (FAO, 2007).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
21 36

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 16 34

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall7002500mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • impeded

Soil reaction

  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Scyphophorus acupunctatus Herbivore Leaves not specific Harris, 1936

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The sisal weevil (Scyphophorus interstitialis [= S. acupunctatus]) can feed on F. foetida, and it is therefore considered a secondary host of S. acupunctatus (Harris, 1936).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

Natural dispersal of F. foetida is mostly via gravity dispersed bulbils, a form of vegetative spread. Each bulbil is effectively a plantlet (Staples et al., 2000; Francis, 2003). Wind has been implicated in some spread in Australia (Harden, 1994). Flooded or riverside plants could conceivably have their bulbils transported downstream. Rare seeding events may occur, but it is unclear how these are dispersed.

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Dispersal of the bulbils by fruit bats has been suggested for the Caribbean, although there is no direct evidence (PIER, 2013).

Accidental Introduction

Accidental introduction over long distances is unlikely, but could occur via construction equipment, heavy machinery or vehicles. Local disposal of garden waste could lead to further accidental introductions.

Intentional Introduction

F. foetida is now underutilized as fibre crop, but has been promoted as a xeric ornamental and a permaculture plant (RBG Kew, 1917; Huxley et al., 1999; Nugent, 2011). It is also used as a live fence in some situations (Bond, 1945). It is easily transported intentionally via the bulbils, which can fit in luggage or a pocket. In the future, F. foetida may be considered as a biofuel crop (Davis et al., 2011).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop productionA fibre plant and ornamental Yes Yes Kew, 1917
Garden waste disposalGarden plant with bulbils could establish Yes Yes
Landscape improvementXeric landscaping plant Yes Yes
Nursery tradeXeric landscaping plant Yes Yes
Ornamental purposesXeric landscaping plant Yes Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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The only known economic impacts of F. foetida are the control costs for labour and herbicides in natural areas.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

F. foetida is mainly a weed of waste areas and is invasive in coastal areas and sites with little soil, such as lava flows in Hawaii and the Pacific. It has become dominant on many tropical islands (including atolls) around the world. It displaces and competes with surrounding vegetation. It is controlled for conservation purposes in New Zealand, Hawaii, South Africa, Florida and Brazil (Motooka et al., 2002; Wilcox, 2005; Howell and Sawyer, 2006; Howell, 2008; Crouch and Smith, 2011; Randall, 2012; Dechoum and Ziller, 2013; Department of Environmental Affairs, 2013). F. foetida has invaded inselberg plant communities in Africa, which are known to have a high diversity of rare plants (Barthlott and Porembski, 1996; Fischer and Theisen, 2000). In Biscayne National Park, south Florida, it is recognized as invasive (National Park Service, 2013). In Australia, it is regarded as an environmental weed that has not yet reached its full impact potential (Randall, 2001).

Impact on Biodiversity

F. foetida can threaten bromeliad species and coastal plants of conservation concern in Brazil (Dechoum and Ziller, 2013). A rare orchid, Eulophia guineensis, on Cape Verde is threatened by F. foetida (Marrero and Almeida Pérez, 2013). In Hawaii the subshrubs Schiedea apokremnos and S. spergulina var. leiopoda [Scheidea spergulina] can be outcompeted by F. foetida and several other invasive species that invade coastal cliffs (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2003; 2010a).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Eulophia guineensisNational list(s) National list(s)Cape VerdeCompetition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shadingMarrero and Almeida, 2013
Schiedea apokremnos (Kauai schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - shading; Competition - smothering; Competition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2003; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010a
Schiedea spergulina var. leiopodaNational list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shading; Competition - smotheringUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010b

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Rapid growth
  • Produces spines, thorns or burrs
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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Economic Value

F. foetida has been utilized since the 1600s, possibly even earlier by indigenous cultures, as a fibre crop. It is now also used as an ornamental plant, for permaculture, as a hedge, as a live fence and for various medicinal uses (RBG Kew, 1917; Bond, 1945; IPK, 2003; Nugent, 2011; Vaughan, 2011). Other uses include fish poison and a fertilizer (derived from burnt leaves) (Vaughan, 2011), In the future it may be considered as a biofuel crop (Davis et al., 2011).

Environmental Services

F. foetida is sometimes planted for erosion control, for example to stabilise the contours of bunds and the edges of paths and roads.

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Boundary, barrier or support
  • Revegetation

Fuels

  • Biofuels

General

  • Botanical garden/zoo

Materials

  • Chemicals
  • Fibre
  • Pesticide

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Potted plant

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Furcraea foetida is similar to F. hexapetala, F. selloa, F. stricta, and F. tuberosa. Further information on how to distinguish it from similar species can be found in the Weeds of Australia factsheet (Queensland Government, 2013).

Prevention and Control

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Rapid response

F. foetida has been put on surveillance lists in some parts of South Africa (Department of Environmental Affairs, 2013).

Physical/mechanical control

A related species, F. hexapetala, was uprooted manually from lava flows on Isabela Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. Plants were allowed to dry upside down in the sun. This could also be an option for F. foetida. However, non-target damage to surrounding plants is possible during uprooting or hacking. Bulbils (plantlets) from the inflorescence should be gathered and removed from the site after parent plants are removed. This is also the case when using herbicide on parent plants.

Movement control

F. foetida is a declared invasive species and is banned from sale and distribution in French Polynesia (ISSG, 2013).

Biological control

Small plants can be eaten by cattle (and probably other ungulates), but the adults are not vulnerable to herbivory (Francis, 2003).

Chemical control

Motooka et al. (2002) have shown that F. foetida can be treated with triclopyr in oil, applied to the bases of leaves around the whole meristem. The same method using water instead of oil was not effective. Another study found that applying 4% triclopyr to cuts in the base of the plants was 100% effective, but injection of 48% triclopyr to the base was not effective (Dechoum and Ziller, 2013). Triclopyr does not need to be sprayed (only dripped) onto plant bases, but it can affect other plants if they come in contact with the herbicide.

IPM programmes

Control measures should be followed by the planting of desirable, native plants where possible. This could pre-empt the common occurrence of other unwanted species colonizing control areas.

Ecosystem restoration

Ecosystem restoration appears to be practiced in valued sites on a small scale in Hawaii, New Zealand (Raoul Island) and Brazil, where F. foetida is tackled along with a suite of other invaders (West and Thompson, 2013).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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It would be interesting to carry out phylo-geographic studies using DNA sequencing to determine the relationships and timing of F. foetida’s spread around the world. This could help to validate its history in South America and the Caribbean, where its status as a native species is unclear.

References

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Contributors

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23/12/13 Original text by:

Christopher E. Buddenhagen, Florida State University, USA

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