Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

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Costus spicatus
(spiked spiralflag ginger)

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Datasheet

Costus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 21 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Costus spicatus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • spiked spiralflag ginger
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. spicatus is an herbaceous medicinal and ornamental plant that is presently listed as invasive only in Cuba and as potentially invasive in St Lucia. This species has robust rhizomes that once established are very difficult to remove. In...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Costus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger);  habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
TitleHabit
CaptionCostus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger); habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
Copyright©Joan Simon-2013/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Costus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger);  habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
HabitCostus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger); habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.©Joan Simon-2013/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Costus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger);  habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
TitleHabit
CaptionCostus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger); habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
Copyright©Joan Simon-2013/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Costus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger);  habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
HabitCostus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger); habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.©Joan Simon-2013/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Costus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger);  habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
TitleHabit
CaptionCostus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger); habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
Copyright©Joan Simon-2013/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Costus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger);  habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
HabitCostus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger); habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.©Joan Simon-2013/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Costus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger);  habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
TitleHabit
CaptionCostus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger); habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
Copyright©Joan Simon-2013/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Costus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger);  habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.
HabitCostus spicatus (spiked spiralflag ginger); habit. Costa Rica. November, 2013.©Joan Simon-2013/via flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Costus spicatus (Jacq.) Sw.

Preferred Common Name

  • spiked spiralflag ginger

Other Scientific Names

  • Alpinia spicata Jacq.
  • Amomum petiolatum Lam.
  • Costus cylindricus Jacq.
  • Costus micranthus Gagnep.

International Common Names

  • English: corkscrew ginger; spiked spiral-flag ginger
  • Spanish: caña de arroyo; cañita amarga; yerba de limón

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: cana branca; cana do brejo; canarana
  • Cuba: caña santa; cañita de limón; cañuela de arroyo; cañuela santa; yerba de limón
  • Dominican Republic: caña de cristo; cumaní; jengibre amargo; jengibre cimarrón
  • Lesser Antilles: canne d’eau; canne marron
  • Puerto Rico: caña amarga

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. spicatus is an herbaceous medicinal and ornamental plant that is presently listed as invasive only in Cuba and as potentially invasive in St Lucia. This species has robust rhizomes that once established are very difficult to remove. In addition, C. spicatus is able to grow in full sunlight areas as well as in heavily shaded areas in the understory of tropical forests. This condition enables this species to colonize both disturbed and undisturbed natural areas (Maas, 1972; Gaspard and Lyndon, 2010; Graveson, 2012Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012). 

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Zingiberales
  •                         Family: Zingiberaceae
  •                             Genus: Costus
  •                                 Species: Costus spicatus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Costaceae is a family of flowering plants including 6 genera and 110 species with Pantropical distribution (Stevens, 2012). Species in the Costaceae can easily be recognized even vegetatively, from their ligulate leaves with a closed sheath that are arranged in a single spiral up the stem. Their inflorescences are usually dense, spicate-capitate, and have large bracts, and their monosymmetric flowers have a large labellum and single stamen, the style running between the two halves of the large anther. The genus Costus is the largest in this family with approximately 90 species (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2005; Stevens, 2012). The English common names of C. spicatus  reflect the growth habit, in which the stems spiral like a corkscrew, and the leaves themselves spiral around the main stem. 

Description

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Plants up to 2.5 m tall; sheaths 1-2 cm in diameter, glabrescent; ligules truncate, 2-10 mm long; petioles 2-10 mm long, puberulous to glabrous; leaf blades narrowly elliptic, 7-33 × 3.5-8.5 cm or more, shortly acuminate at the apex, rounded to cordate at base, glabrescent on both surfaces. Inflorescence ovoid to cylindrical, 5-27× 3-4.5 cm; bracts greenish or reddish on the exposed part, reddish on the covered part, broadly ovate, 2-4 cm long and broad, obtuse at the apex, glabrous and coriaceous, the margin of the covered parts lacerating into fibers; bracteoles 1.7-3 cm long. Calyx 9-16 mm long. Corolla yellow to pink, 4-5 cm long, glabrous, the tube 1 cm long, the lobes narrowly obovate, 3-5 cm long. Labellum yellow, broadly oblong-obovate when spread out, 2.5-5 cm long and wide, the lateral lobes rolled inward and forming a slender tube, the margins crenulate. Stamen narrowly elliptic, 3-4 cm long; anther 7-8 mm long. Ovary 4-9 mm long, sericeous or rarely glabrous. Capsule ellipsoid, 10-15 mm long; seeds black (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2005). 

Plant Type

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Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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C. spicatus is native to the Caribbean region: specifically to the islands of Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Puerto Rico (Maas, 1972; USDA-ARS, 2014). It is often grown as an ornamental and medicinal herb, principally in tropical regions of the world.

There are some discrepancies between sources as to the range, possibly due to confusion with other Costus species. Tavares et al. (2012) suggest that the species is native to the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, and the Flora of Panama (2014) says that it is distributed from Costa Rica to Caribbean Colombia. However, the Panama Checklist (2014) has a note from Maas (1972) that the specimens cited in the Flora of Panama are actually Costus wilsonii, C. plicatus and C. nitidus. Maas (1972) says that the name C. spicatus ‘has often been misapplied to specimens belonging to C. scaber, C. laevis, C. pictus and C. spiralis' and that the native distribution is limited to Hispaniola and the Lesser Antilles.

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.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

North America

CubaPresentIntroducedInvasive
DominicaPresentNative
Dominican RepublicPresentNative
GuadeloupePresentNative
HaitiPresentNative
MartiniquePresentNative
MexicoPresent
PanamaAbsent, Invalid presence record(s)
Puerto RicoPresentNative
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedPotential threat in lower montane rainforest
Trinidad and TobagoPresentNative and IntroducedListed as both native and introduced. Also in cultivation

South America

BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AmazonasPresentCultivated
-ParaPresentIntroducedCultivated

History of Introduction and Spread

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C. spicatus was probably introduced into new locations to be used as an ornamental and medicinal herb. For several islands in the West Indies, it is still unclear if this species is introduced or native (as the type is from Martinique). For example, in Trinidad it first appears in a botanical study made in 1838 and since then it has been listed as both native and introduced on this island (Joseph, 1838). Maas (1972), in a monograph of the genus, considers this species as native only to Hispaniola and the Lesser Antilles. The species is reported by Oviedo Prieto et al. (2012) to be introduced and invasive in Cuba. 

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of C. spicatus is moderate. Introduction and spread of this species into new habitat is mostly dependent on human activity. 

Habitat

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C. spicatus grows in the understory of wet coastal forests (Quintans Junior et al., 2010) and rainforests. It is also grown as an ornamental in gardens, parks, and along roadsides, mostly in warm and humid habitats (Cruz and Dirzo, 1987; Acevedo-Rodriquez and Strong, 2005; Govaerts, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014). 

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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C. spicatus grows best in warm and very humid areas from sea level to 1000 m (USDA-ARS, 2014). In cooler zones, the foliage will die back to the ground in winter, but the rhizomes may survive to allow regeneration. It can grow in shaded conditions.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
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])

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 22 30

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall10002500mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil reaction

  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. spicatus spreads by seeds and by rhizome division (USDA-ARS, 2014).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Botanical gardens and zoosGrown for its attractive foliage and bracts Yes Yes Gonçalves et al. (2005)
Nursery tradePlants commercialized as ornamentals Yes Yes
Ornamental purposesGrown for its attractive foliage and bracts Yes Yes Gonçalves et al. (2005)

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Positive
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

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C. spicatus has been listed as invasive in Cuba and as potentially invasive in St Lucia. In St Lucia, this species represents a threat because it has invaded montane forests. In Cuba it is considered a “transformer species” because once established it has the potential to change the nature of natural ecosystems and displace native vegetation (Gaspard and Lyndon, 2010; Graveson, 2012; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012). 

Risk and Impact Factors

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Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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C. spicatus is often grown as an ornamental and a medicinal herb. Leaves, fruits, seeds and rhizomes are used in traditional medicine as diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anthelmictic, stimulant, and for the treatment of tumours (Couly, 2004; Lars, 2007; Duke, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2014). In traditional West Indies medicine (i.e., Dominican Republic), herbal tea made from the leaves of C. spicatus is commonly used to treat diabetes (hyperglycemia). However, a recent study concluded that this treatment had no efficacy in treating obesity-induced hyperglycemia (Keller et al., 2009). In Brazil, cataplasms of heated leaves of this species are used to treat kidney and bladder tumours (Couly, 2004; Favro and Brebbia, 2010). Quintans Junior et al. (2010) report that an infusion of the aerial parts of the plant is taken to treat inflammation and pain in northeast Brazil.

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Amenity

General

  • Botanical garden/zoo

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Potted plant
  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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C. spicatus can be confused with other Costus spp., such that Maas (1972) suggests that the name has sometimes been misapplied to other species in the genus. Maas gives a table comparing characteristics of C. spicatus, C. spiralis  and C. scaber: C. spicatus can be distinguished from the other species by greenish bracts (red in other species) and longer calyx. 

References

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Acevedo-Rodríguez P; Strong MT, 2005. Monocots and Gymnosperms of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, volume 52:415 pp.

Acevedo-Rodríguez P; Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1192 pp. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution. http://botany.si.edu/Antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm

Broome R; Sabir K; Carrington S, 2007. Plants of the Eastern Caribbean. Online database. Barbados: University of the West Indies. http://ecflora.cavehill.uwi.edu/index.html

Couly C, 2004. Plantes médicinales dans les forêts secondaires du Nord Est du Pará (Amazonie brésilienne): Etude préliminaire pour une valorisation par les populations locales ([English title not available]). Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, UFR Sciences Exactes et Naturelles, 117 pp.

Cruz Mde la; Dirzo R, 1987. A survey of the standing levels of herbivory in seedlings from a Mexican rain forest. Biotropica, 19(2):98-106.

Duke JA, 2008. Duke's handbook of medicinal plants of Latin America. Boca Raton, Florida, USA: CRC Press, 832 pp.

Favro S; Brebbia CA, 2010. Island Sustainability. Southampton, UK: WIT Press. [WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Volume 130.]

Flora of Panama, 2014. Flora of Panama (WFO), Tropicos website. St. Louis, MO and Cambridge, MA, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.tropicos.org/Project/FOPWFO

Gaspard MA; Lyndon J, 2010. National Invasive Species Strategy for Saint Lucia. Terrestrial Ecosystems Analysis. Mitigating the Threats of Invasive Alien Species in the Insular Caribbean. Project No. GFL / 2328 - 2713-4A86, GF-1030-09-03. http://www.ciasnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/NISS-Terrestrial-Ecosystems-final-2010.pdf

Gonçalves C; Castro CEF; Azevedo Filho JA; Dias-Tagliacozzo GM, 2005. Evaluation of Costus species and their use as indoor potted plants. Acta Horticulturae [Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium on New Floricultural Crops, Paranà, Brazil, 26-31 August, 2003.], No.683:319-325. http://www.actahort.org

Govaerts R, 2014. World Checklist of Costaceae. Richmond, London, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/

Graveson R, 2012. The Plants of Saint Lucia (in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean). The Plants of Saint Lucia (in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean). http://www.saintlucianplants.com

IICT, 2007. Costus spicatus Roscoe (Zingiberaceae). http://www.iict.pt/ev/plantas/Textos/fichaBR6_en.pdf

Joseph EL, 1838. History of Trinidad. London, UK: Henry James Mills.

Keller AC; Vandebroek I; Liu YP; Balick MJ; Kronenberg F; Kennelly EJ; Brillantes AMB, 2009. Costus spicatus tea failed to improve diabetic progression in C57BLKS/J db/db mice, a model of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 121(2):248-254. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03788741

Lans C, 2007. Creole Remedies of Trinidad and Tobago., USA: Lulu Press Incorporated, 240 pp.

Maas PJM, 1972. Costoideae (Zingiberaceae). Flora Neotropica Monographs, 8:1-140.

Oviedo Prieto R; Herrera Oliver P; Caluff MG, et al. , 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6(Special Issue 1):22-96.

Paes LS; Mendonça MS; Casas LL, 2013. Structural and phytochemical aspect from vegetative part of Costus spicatus (Jacq.) Sw (Costaceae). (Aspectos estruturais e fitoquímicos de partes vegetativas de Costus spicatus (Jacq.) Sw. (Costaceae).) Revista Brasileira de Plantas Medicinais, 15(3):380-390. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-05722013000300011&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=pt

Panama Checklist, 2014. Flora of Panama Checklist, Tropicos website. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://tropicos.org/Project/PAC

Quintans Júnior LJ; Santana MT; Melo MS; Sousa DPde; Santos IS; Siqueira RS; Lima TC; Silveira GO; Antoniolli ÂR; Ribeiro LAA; Santos MRV, 2010. Antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of Costus spicatus in experimental animals. Pharmaceutical Biology, 48(10):1097-1102.

Stevens PF, 2012. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb/

Tavares Wde S; Salgado Neto G; Legaspi JC; Ramalho Fde S; Serrão JE; Zanuncio JC, 2012. Biological and ecological consequences of Diolcogaster sp. (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) parasitizing Agaraea minuta (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae) and the effects on two Costus (Costaceae) plant species in Brazil. Florida Entomologist, 95(4):966-970. http://www.fcla.edu/FlaEnt/

USDA-ARS, 2014. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysearch.aspx

Distribution References

Acevedo-Rodríguez P, Strong M T, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Washington, DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution. 1192 pp. http://botany.si.edu/Antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm

Broome R, Sabir K, Carrington S, 2007. Plants of the Eastern Caribbean., Barbados: University of the West Indies. http://ecflora.cavehill.uwi.edu/index.html

CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status inferred from regional distribution. Wallingford, UK: CABI

Couly C, 2004. [English title not available]. (Plantes médicinales dans les forêts secondaires du Nord Est du Pará (Amazonie brésilienne): Etude préliminaire pour une valorisation par les populations locales)., Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, UFR Sciences Exactes et Naturelles. 117 pp.

Cruz M de la, Dirzo R, 1987. A survey of the standing levels of herbivory in seedlings from a Mexican rain forest. Biotropica. 19 (2), 98-106. DOI:10.2307/2388730

Flora of Panama, 2014. Flora of Panama (WFO),, St. Louis, MO and Cambridge, MA, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.tropicos.org/Project/FOPWFO

Govaerts R, 2014. World Checklist of Lamiaceae., Richmond, London, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/

Graveson R, 2012. The Plants of Saint Lucia (in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean)., http://www.saintlucianplants.com

IICT, 2007. Costus spicatus Roscoe (Zingiberaceae)., http://www.iict.pt/ev/plantas/Textos/fichaBR6_en.pdf

Lans C, 2007. Creole Remedies of Trinidad and Tobago., Morrisville, USA: Lulu Enterprises Inc. 240 pp.

Oviedo Prieto R, Herrera Oliver P, Caluff M G, et al, 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba. 6 (Special Issue No. 1), 22-96.

Panama Checklist, 2014. Flora of Panama Checklist, Tropicos website., St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://tropicos.org/Project/PAC

Contributors

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16/02/15 Original text by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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