Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Cirsium mexicanum
(Mexican thistle)

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Datasheet

Cirsium mexicanum (Mexican thistle)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Cirsium mexicanum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Mexican thistle
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. mexicanum is a cosmopolitan herb included in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012). This species has been classified as invasive i...

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Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Cirsium mexicanum DC.

Preferred Common Name

  • Mexican thistle

Other Scientific Names

  • Carduus lanceolatus var. arachnoideo-lanuginosus M. Gómez
  • Carduus mexicanus (DC.) Greene
  • Cirsium costaricensis Petr.
  • Cirsium mexicanum var. bracteatum Petr.
  • Cnicus costaricensis Pol.
  • Cnicus mexicanus (DC.) Hemsl.

International Common Names

  • English: chardon
  • Spanish: alcachofa de monte; cardo

Local Common Names

  • Cuba: serrucho
  • El Salvador: cardo-santo
  • Lesser Antilles: thistle
  • Mexico: cardo macho; cardo santo; oomil

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. mexicanum is a cosmopolitan herb included in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012). This species has been classified as invasive in Cuba (González-Torres et al., 2012) and Puerto Rico, and as an agricultural and environmental weed within its native distribution range which includes Mexico and Central America (Randall, 2012). This species is a fast-growing herb which spreads by seeds and produces a large number of bristled seeds which can be easily dispersed by wind (Pruski, 2013).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Asterales
  •                         Family: Asteraceae
  •                             Genus: Cirsium
  •                                 Species: Cirsium mexicanum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The genus Cirsium is included in the subfamily Carduoideae (also known as Cardueae or Cynareae) of the Asteraceae family. Members of this subfamily are among the more early-divergent in the Asteraceae and are also among the first herbaceous members of the family to have spread into north temperate zones. For example, genera such as Centaurea, Cirsium, and Saussurea contain several hundred species occurring primarily in north temperate regions (Pruski, 2013). The genus Cirsium includes about 250-300 cosmopolitan species, with the majority of them occurring in temperate Eurasia, North America (75 species), and the Neotropics (35 species). Many of these species are aggressive weeds (Pruski, 2013).

Description

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Annual herbs, 10-40 dm tall; stems simple below, branching above, tomentose when young. Leaves usually lanceolate in outline, with deeply sinuate or lobed, spiny margins; lower surface whitish tomentose. Lower leaves up to 45 cm long and 18 cm wide, with long decurrent base, upper leaves to 10 cm long and 6 cm wide, truncate or lyrate. Inflorescence of terminal clusters of 3-5 or single heads on short peduncles arising from the axils of the upper and middle leaves. Heads with the involucre 8- or 9-seriate, 3-3.5 cm tall, 1.5-2 cm in diameter at the base, the outer involucral bracts 4-6 mm long, basally 1-2 mm wide, with a glutinous dorsal ridge, tapering to a 5-7 mm long spine, the innermost bracts 25-35 mm long, 1-2 mm wide, tapering, twisted and often purple near the tip; corolla purple to reddish, 26-30 mm long, the lobes 4-5 mm long, anthers colourless, 4-5 mm long, style purple 27-31 mm long. Achenes 4-5 mm long, 1-1.5 mm in diameter; pappus 23-25 mm long (Flora of Panama WFO, 2013).

Plant Type

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Annual
Herbaceous
Seed propagated

Distribution

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C. mexicanum is native to Mexico and Central America. Currently this species has been reported outside its native range only in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Martinique (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012).

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

BelizePresentNative
Costa RicaPresentNativeOriginal citation: INBio (Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad) (1998)
CubaPresentIntroducedInvasive
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced
El SalvadorPresentNative
GuatemalaPresentNative
HaitiPresentIntroduced
HondurasPresentNative
MartiniquePresentIntroduced
MexicoPresentNativeVeracruz, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Chiapas, Campeche
NicaraguaPresentNative
PanamaPresentNative
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedInvasiveWeed

History of Introduction and Spread

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The history of introduction of this species is uncertain. Probably it was introduced accidentally as a contaminant. For the West Indies, herbarium collections shown that this species was first collected in Puerto Rico in 1885, in Cuba in 1900 and in the Dominican Republic in 1906 (US Herbarium Collection).

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of C. mexicanum is moderate to high. This species is often classified as a weed and it is able to spread into new habitat (principally ruderal and disturbed habitats) forming monoespecific stands when it grows under favourable environmental conditions (Cardenas and Coulston, 1967). In addition, plants have the potential to produce large numbers of seeds which can be easily dispersed by wind. Consequently, the species has the potential to spread much further than it has to date.

Habitat

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C. mexicanum grows in disturbed and waste areas, fields, pastures, trails, roadsides, forest edges and gaps and in cloud and wet forests, secondary forests, upland forests, and volcano slopes (INBio, 1998; Pruski, 2013). In Costa Rica this species can be found from 800 m to 2500 metres above sea level in a wide variety of soils (INBio, 1998).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRocky areas / lava flows Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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C. mexicanum is listed as a weed which principally affects active pastures. In these areas, rosettes can grow forming dense monospecific stands. Previous studies have suggested that cattle do not feed on these plants (Cardenas and Coulston, 1967).

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for C. mexicanum is 2n = 22 (Ownbey et al., 1976).

Physiology and phenology

In Costa Rica C. mexicanum has been reported flowering and fruiting all year long (INBio, 1998), but in Panama this species produces flowers from January to May (Flora of Panama WFO, 2013).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
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
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 0

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall10003250mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Bimodal

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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C. mexicanum spreads by seeds. Each plant has the potential to produce hundreds of seeds which are adapted to wind-dispersal. In addition, seeds may be dispersed as a contaminant in crop seeds and pasture seeds and in agricultural machinery (Cardenas and Coulston, 1967).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes Yes Holm et al., 1997
Garden waste disposal Yes Yes Holm et al., 1997
Seed tradeContaminant in crop seeds Yes Yes Holm et al., 1997

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Land vehiclesSeed Yes Yes Holm et al., 1997
Plants or parts of plantsContaminant in crop seed Yes Yes Holm et al., 1997
Soil, sand and gravelSeed Yes Yes Holm et al., 1997
WaterSecondary dispersal of seeds Yes Holm et al., 1997
WindSeeds with bristles Yes Yes Pruski, 2012

Impact Summary

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

Environmental Impact

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C. mexicanum is listed as a weed which invades disturbed areas, pastures, trails, roadsides, forest edges, forest gaps, secondary forests, upland forests, and volcano slopes (Cardenas and Coulston, 1967; INBio, 1998; Pruski, 2013). Under suitable environmental conditions, this species has the potential to grow forming dense rosette thickets and consequently altering native plant communities by displacing and out-competing native species (Cardenas and Coulston, 1967). In Cuba, it is listed as one of the 100 most noxious invasive plants on the island (González-Torres et al., 2012).

Risk and Impact Factors

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Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Negatively impacts animal/plant collections
Impact mechanisms
  • Rapid growth
  • Produces spines, thorns or burrs
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant

Uses

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C. mexicanum is used in traditional medicine in Central America and Mexico. This herb is used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, hepatitis, diarrhea, dysentery, and stomach ache. Leaves and flowers are consumed as herbal-tea and they are also mixed and applied to legs and arms to relieve muscular contractions and cramps (Grijalva, 2006).

Uses List

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Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Cirsium is characterized by plumose pappus bristles, a feature traditionally used to separate it from the otherwise similar genus Carduus, which has scabrid to barbellate pappi (Pruski, 2013). Species such as Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle), C. arvense (Canada thistle) and C. palustre (European swamp thistle) also behave as weeds and often are listed as noxious or invasive (Keil, 2006).

References

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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

Acuna GJ, 1974. [English title not available]. (Plantas Indeseables en Los Cultivos Cubanos. Academia de Ciencias, Insitituto de Investigaciones de Cuba, Havana, in GCW, 2007.) Eichhornia azurea (Pontederiaceae) Global Compendium of Weeds. http://www.hear.org/gcw/species/eichhornia_azurea/

Cardenas J; Coulston L, 1967. Weeds: A List of Common and Scientific Names for Brazil, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Central America.

Correa A; Galdames MDC; Stapf MNS, 2004. Catalogue of vascular plants of Panama (Catalogo de Plantas Vasculares de Panama.), Panama: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 599 pp.

Flora of Panama WFO, 2013. Cirsium mexicanum DC. Tropicos.org., USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://www.tropicos.org/Name/2709825

González-Torres LR; Rankin R; Palmarola A (eds), 2012. Invasive plants in Cuba. (Plantas Invasoras en Cuba.) Bissea: Boletin sobre Conservacion de Plantad del Jardin Botanico Nacional, 6:1-140.

Grijalva A, 2006. Flora útil etnobotánica de Nicaragua ([English title not available]). Managua, Nicaragua: MARENA, 290 pp. http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/training_material/docs/Flora%20Util%20en%20Nicaragua.pdf

Holm L; Doll J; Holm E; Pancho J; Herberger J, 1997. World Weeds. Natural Histories and Distribution. New York, USA: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

INBio (Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad), 1998. Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica (Manual of plants of Costa Rica). Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica: Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, 125 pp.

Keil DJ, 2006. Cirsium. Asteraceae - Flora of North America Vol. 19. Online resources. http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=107139

Ownbey GB; Raven PH; Kyhos DW, 1976. Chromosome numbers in some North American species of the genus Cirsium. III. Western United States, Mexico, and Guatemala. Brittonia, 27(4):297-304.

Pruski JF, 2012. Asteraceae. Flora mesoamericana 5(2):1-625

Randall RP, 2012. A Global Compendium of Weeds. Perth, Australia: Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, 1124 pp. http://www.cabi.org/isc/FullTextPDF/2013/20133109119.pdf

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

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

Anon, 2012. Invasive plants in Cuba. (Plantas Invasoras en Cuba). In: Bissea: Boletin sobre Conservacion de Plantad del Jardin Botanico Nacional, 6 [ed. by González-Torres LR, Rankin R, Palmarola A]. 1-140.

CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI

Correa A, Galdames MDC, Stapf MNS, 2004. Catalogue of vascular plants of Panama. (Catalogo de Plantas Vasculares de Panama)., Panama: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. 599 pp.

Pruski JF, 2012. (Asteraceae). In: Flora mesoamericana, 5 (2) 1-625.

Contributors

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10/01/14 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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