Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Muntingia calabura
(Jamaica cherry)

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Datasheet

Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 30 October 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Muntingia calabura
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Jamaica cherry
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. calabura is a fast growing tree of disturbed lowland neotropical forests that has been introduced as an ornamental and fruit tree in many Old World countries. It is now widespread and naturalized in Southeas...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); habit. Tree growing along a roadside. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
TitleHabit
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); habit. Tree growing along a roadside. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); habit. Tree growing along a roadside. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
HabitMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); habit. Tree growing along a roadside. Puerto Rico. September 2016.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); habit. Tree growing along a roadside. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
TitleHabit
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); habit. Tree growing along a roadside. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); habit. Tree growing along a roadside. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
HabitMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); habit. Tree growing along a roadside. Puerto Rico. September 2016.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, showing leaves. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
TitleBranch
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, showing leaves. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, showing leaves. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
BranchMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, showing leaves. Puerto Rico. September 2016.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, showing two-ranked leaves. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
TitleBranch
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, showing two-ranked leaves. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, showing two-ranked leaves. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
BranchMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, showing two-ranked leaves. Puerto Rico. September 2016.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with flower. February 2008.
TitleFlower
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with flower. February 2008.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with flower. February 2008.
FlowerMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with flower. February 2008.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with flower. February 2008.
TitleFlower
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with flower. February 2008.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with flower. February 2008.
FlowerMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with flower. February 2008.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); flower. February 2008.
TitleFlower
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); flower. February 2008.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); flower. February 2008.
FlowerMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); flower. February 2008.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with green fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
TitleFruits
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with green fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with green fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
FruitsMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with green fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with green fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
TitleFruits
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with green fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with green fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
FruitsMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with green fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with ripening fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
TitleFruit
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with ripening fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with ripening fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
FruitMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); branch, with ripening fruits. Puerto Rico. September 2016.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); ripe fruit. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
TitleFruit
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); ripe fruit. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); ripe fruit. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
FruitMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); ripe fruit. Puerto Rico. September 2016.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); ripe fruit, sectioned to show seeds. Note mm scale. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
TitleFruit
CaptionMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); ripe fruit, sectioned to show seeds. Note mm scale. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
Copyright©Fabiola Areces-Berazain
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); ripe fruit, sectioned to show seeds. Note mm scale. Puerto Rico. September 2016.
FruitMuntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry); ripe fruit, sectioned to show seeds. Note mm scale. Puerto Rico. September 2016.©Fabiola Areces-Berazain

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Muntingia calabura L.

Preferred Common Name

  • Jamaica cherry

Other Scientific Names

  • Muntingia rosea H. Karst

International Common Names

  • English: calabur; cherry tree; cotton candy berry; Jamaican cherry; Panama berry; Panama cherry; Panama-berry; strawberry tree; strawberrytree
  • Spanish: capulí; capulín; cereza; majagua; nigüito

Local Common Names

  • : monomona
  • Argentina: cedrillo majagua
  • Australia: bird cherry
  • Belize: calabur tree; capuleen
  • Bolivia: ovillo; uvilla; uvillo
  • Brazil: calabura; cereja-das-Antilhas; pau-de-seda
  • Cambodia: kakhop; krakhob barang
  • Colombia: acurruco; chirriador; chitato; majaguito; nigua; tapabotija
  • Cook Islands: venevene
  • Cuba: capulinas; guácima boba; guácima cereza; guasimilla; memiso
  • Ecuador: comida paloma
  • El Salvador: capulín de comer
  • French Polynesia: cerise
  • Guam: mansanita; manzanilla; manzanita
  • Guatemala: capulín blanco
  • Haiti: bois de soie; bois de soie marron; bois d'orme
  • India: bird's cherry; gasagase hannina mara; nakkaraegu; paanchara; Singapore cherry; ten pazham
  • Indonesia: cerri; kersen; Malay cherry; talok
  • Jamaica: strawberry tree
  • Laos: khoom sôm; khoom somz
  • Malaysia: Japanese cherry; kerukup siam
  • Maldives: jaam
  • Mexico: bersilana; bisilana; cacanicua; capolín; capulin; capulín de mayo; capulín manso; capulín real; capulincillo; carecillo; cerezo; guinda; huztlán; huztlán; jonote; juanito; nigua; palmán; poan; puam; puan; puan capulín; puyam; puyán; teresita
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: terri
  • Myanmar: hnget thagya; hnget-tangya
  • Nicaragua: capulín negro
  • Panama: pacito; pasito; periquito
  • Peru: bolaina; bolina yamanza; guinda yunanasa; iumanasa; mullacahuayo; mullaca-huayo; yumanaza
  • Philippines: aratiles; cereza; datiles; latires; ratiles; seresa; zanitas
  • Singapore: buah cheri
  • Sri Lanka: jam fruit; jam tree
  • Thailand: krop farang; ta kob farang; takhop farang
  • Venezuela: cedrillo; guácimo hembra; mahaujo; majaguillo; niguo
  • Vietnam: mat sam; trung ca

EPPO code

  • MUNCA (Muntingia calabura)

Summary of Invasiveness

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M. calabura is a fast growing tree of disturbed lowland neotropical forests that has been introduced as an ornamental and fruit tree in many Old World countries. It is now widespread and naturalized in Southeast Asia, Australia, and in islands of the Pacific Ocean, in part due to its ability to disperse by bats and birds. It is often regarded as an environmental weed, but has not yet become a severe widespread problem (Werren, 2001; Randall, 2012). Listed as invasive in Puerto Rico (Haysom and Murphy, 2003; Rojas-Sandoval and Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2015), Singapore (Nghiem et al., 2015), Papua New Guinea (Orapa, 2006), Republic of Palau (Space et al., 2009), Nauru (Meyer, 2000) and the Federated States of Micronesia (Haysom and Murphy, 2003). Listed as potentially invasive in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (Meyer, 2000).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Malvales
  •                         Family: Tiliaceae
  •                             Genus: Muntingia
  •                                 Species: Muntingia calabura

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Muntingia calabura was described from Jamaica by Linnaeus in 1753. It is the sole species in the genus Muntingia, which was named after the Dutch botanist Abraham Munting. The specific epithet calabura is "possibly a vernacular name of unknown meaning" (Glen, 2004). Muntingia rosea, a species with pink flowers described from Colombia (Karsten, 1863), is best considered as a form or variety of M. calabura.

Muntingia has been historically included under several distinct families: Tiliaceae (now within Malvaceae), Flacourtiaceae (now within Salicaceae) and Elaeocarpaceae, but molecular data indicate that this genus is distantly related to these groups (Bayer et al., 1998). Muntingiaceae seems to be more related to Cytinaceae, Cistaceae, Sarcolaenaceae, Dipterocarpaceae and Bixaceae, although relationships among these families are still poorly resolved (Stevens, 2016).

Description

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Small evergreen tree, 3–12 m tall, growing and flowering continuously on fan-like branches; mainline branches becoming erect after leaf fall and so in turn contributing to the formation of the trunk (Troll's architectural model). Branches horizontal, pendant towards the tip, soft-hairy. Leaves simple, ovate-lanceolate, 4–14 x 1–4 cm, with prominent asymmetry of the leaf blade base; leaf margin serrate, lower leaf surface greyish pubescent. Flowers in 1–3(–5)-flowered supra-axillary fascicles, hermaphrodite, pentamerous with white petals; number of stamens increasing from 10–25 in the first emerging flower in the fascicle to more than 100 in the last; development of the superior ovary declining in the same order, so that from the third and later, flowers do not normally set fruit. Fruit a dull-red berry, 15 mm in diameter, with several thousand tiny seeds in the soft pulp.

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Perennial
Seed propagated
Tree
Vegetatively propagated
Woody

Distribution

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M. calabura is native to tropical America, from Mexico to northern Argentina, but despite not being commercially cultivated has since become pantropical. In the West Indies, as well as Brazil, it has been considered as either native or introduced. Introduced in USA (Florida, California) and the Galápagos Islands. Also widely present and naturalized in Southeast Asia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, and many other Pacific Islands. Reported also for Spain, New Zealand, East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania), and some islands in the Indian Ocean (Seychelles, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Christmas Island and Cocos Islands).

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 ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

CambodiaPresentIntroducedVerheij, 1989
ChinaPresentIntroducedHerbarium PE, 2016
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedHerbarium PE, 2016Herbarium specimens
-HainanPresentIntroducedHerbarium PE, 2016Herbarium specimens
-Hong KongPresentIntroducedCorlett, 2005
-YunnanPresentIntroducedHerbarium PE, 2016Herbarium specimens
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentIntroducedSwarbrick and Hart, 2001
Cocos IslandsPresentIntroducedWilliams, 1994; Claussen and Slip, 2002
East TimorPresentIntroducedCouncil of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2016
IndiaPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2016
-KarnatakaPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2016
-KeralaPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2016
-MaharashtraPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2016
-PuducherryPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2016
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2016
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedVerheij, 1989
-Irian JayaPresent Natural
-JavaPresent Natural
-KalimantanPresent Natural
-MoluccasPresent Natural
-SulawesiPresent Planted
-SumatraPresent Natural
LaosPresentIntroducedVerheij, 1989
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedVerheij, 1989
MaldivesPresentIntroducedFosberg, 1957
MyanmarPresentIntroducedKress et al., 2003
PhilippinesWidespreadIntroducedVerheij, 1989; Pelser et al., 2011
SingaporePresentIntroduced1895 Invasive Nghiem et al., 2015
Sri LankaPresentIntroduced1912MacMillan, 1999
TaiwanPresentIntroduced1936 Not invasive Wu et al., 2004
ThailandPresentIntroducedVerheij, 1989
VietnamPresentIntroducedVerheij, 1989

Africa

KenyaPresentIntroducedVerdcourt, 2001
SeychellesPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced1990 Not invasive Gerlach, 1996
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedVerdcourt, 2001

North America

MexicoWidespreadNativeAvendaño-Reyes, 2006
USARestricted distributionIntroducedWunderlin et al., 2016
-CaliforniaPresent only under cover/indoorsIntroduced1997Hrusa et al., 2002
-FloridaPresentIntroducedWunderlin et al., 2016Monroe keys, Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier and Hendry
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedMorton, 1987; Wagner et al., 1999O'ahu

Central America and Caribbean

BahamasPresentNativeCorrell and Correll, 1982; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
BelizeWidespreadNativeFlora Mesoamericana, 2016
Costa RicaWidespreadNativeFlora Mesoamericana, 2016
CubaPresentNativeRodríguez Fuentes, 2000; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Dominican RepublicPresentNativeLiogier, 1982; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
El SalvadorWidespreadNativeFlora Mesoamericana, 2016
GuatemalaWidespreadNativeFlora Mesoamericana, 2016
HaitiPresentNativeLiogier, 1982; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasWidespreadNativeFlora Mesoamericana, 2016
JamaicaPresentNativeAdams, 1972; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
NicaraguaWidespreadNativeFlora Mesoamericana, 2016
PanamaWidespreadNativeFlora Mesoamericana, 2016
Puerto RicoPresentIntroduced1920 Invasive Little et al., 1974; Rojas-Sandoval and Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2015
Trinidad and TobagoPresentNativeQuesnel and Farrell, 2000

South America

ArgentinaPresentNativeInstituto de Botánica Darwinion, 2016Jujuy, Salta
BoliviaWidespreadNativeArrázola, 2014
BrazilPresentNativeSouza and Lorenzi, 2005; Souza, 2015
-AcrePresentNativeSouza, 2015
-AmazonasPresentNativeSouza, 2015
-RondoniaPresentNativeSouza, 2015
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedFigueiredo et al., 2008
ColombiaWidespreadNativeIdárraga-Piedrahita et al., 2011
EcuadorWidespreadNativeJørgensen and León-Yánez, 1999
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedCharles Darwin Foundation, 2016
French GuianaPresentNativeBerry, 2007
GuyanaPresentNativeBerry, 2007
PeruWidespreadNativeBrako and Zarucchi, 1993
VenezuelaWidespreadNativeHokche et al., 2008

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedCouncil of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2016
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedCouncil of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2016
-QueenslandWidespreadIntroducedCouncil of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2016; Weeds of Australia, 2016
-Western AustraliaPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedCouncil of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2016
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedMcCormack, 2007Penrhyn, Rakahanga, Manihiki, Pukapuka, Rarotonga
FijiPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Smith, 1981
French PolynesiaWidespreadIntroducedFlorence, 1974; Sachet and Fosberg, 1983; Wagner and Lorence, 2016Austral Islands (Rurutu); Gambier Islands (Mangareva); Marquesas Islands (Eiao, Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva, Tahuata, Ua Huka, Ua Pou); Society Islands (Huahine, Moorea, Raiatea, Tahaa, Tahiti); Tuamotu Archipelago (Anaa, Makatea, Manihi, Niau, Rangiroa, Raroia, Takapoto, Tikehau)
GuamPresentIntroducedFosberg et al., 1979
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedFosberg et al., 1979; Space et al., 2000; Haysom and Murphy, 2003; Herrera et al., 2010Yap island, Ulithi atoll, Fais Island, Woleai atoll, Ifaluk atoll
NauruPresentIntroduced Invasive Thaman et al., 1994; Meyer, 2000
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedMacKee, 1994Île Grande Terre
New ZealandPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced2012 Not invasive James et al., 2012
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedFosberg et al., 1979; Fosberg et al., 1980; Raulerson, 2006Anatahan, Saipan, Rota
PalauPresentIntroduced Invasive Space et al., 2009Koror, Malakal, Ngerkebesang, Babeldaob, Angaur, Kayangel, Peleliu, Ngercheu, Merir, Sonsorol
Papua New GuineaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Orapa, 2006
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedBishop Museum, 2016
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroduced Not invasive Meyer, 2007

History of Introduction and Spread

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M. calabura was introduced in the Philippines late in the 19th century, but its incredible capacity for establishment 'under foot' has quickly made it one of the most common roadside trees in South-East Asia. The earliest record of M. calabura for Singapore dates back to 1895. It was presumably introduced as a fruit tree, and quickly spread throughout the country where is at present considered invasive (Nghiem et al., 2015). In Sri Lanka, it was introduced about 1912 (MacMillan, 1999), and has since naturalized throughout the island. The earliest record for Taiwan is from 1936, where it is also a naturalized, common species (Wu et al., 2004). In Hawaii, M. calabura was introduced by the US Department of Agriculture in 1922 (Morton, 1987).

The species was first observed in the island of Mahé (Seychelles) in 1990 (Gerlach, 1996). It was probably brought with the machinery imported for the dredging of the East coast of this island. According to Gerlach (1996), only a few trees growing under the dense shade of Casuarina equisetifolia had survived by 1994, so its occurrence in this island was probably temporary.

M. calabura was reported as a spontaneous greenhouse weed in California in 2002. It was presumably introduced via coco fibre imported from Sri Lanka. Hrusa et al. (2002) note that it "may be expected to volunteer and persist under mild, moist conditions". More recently, the species was detected in nurseries of New Zealand (James et al., 2012), and in a greenhouse in Valencia, Spain (Ferrer Gallego and Laguna Lumbreras, 2013). In both cases it also apparently arrived with coco fibre imported from Sri Lanka.

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Singapore 1895 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No Nghiem et al. (2015)
Sri Lanka 1912 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes No MacMillan (1999)
Puerto Rico 1920 Yes No Rojas-Sandoval and Acevedo-Rodríguez (2015)
Hawaii 1922 Government Yes No Morton (1987)
Seychelles 1990 No No Gerlach (1996) Accidental introduction, probably seed contamination
California Sri Lanka 1997 No No Hrusa et al. (2002) Accidental, seed contamination in sowing substrate
New Zealand Sri Lanka 2012 No No James et al. (2012) Accidental, seed contamination in sowing substrate
Spain Sri Lanka 2012 No No Ferrer Gallego and Laguna Lumbreras (2013) Accidental, seed contamination in sowing substrate

Risk of Introduction

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M. calabura is already widely distributed in tropical regions. It is advertised and sold on gardening websites as a fruit and shade tree (e.g. Dave's Garden, 2016; Sunshine Seeds, 2016; Top Tropicals, 2016), and thus it is very likely to spread further. It propagates by seeds, but also by cuttings and suckers (Sunshine seeds, 2016). The tiny seeds are also very likely to travel inadvertently as stowaways in horticultural substrates (Hrusa et al., 2002; James et al., 2012; Ferrer Gallego and Laguna Lumbreras, 2013), and in soil machinery (Gerlach, 1996).

A risk assessment carried out for Hawaii gives M. calabura a high risk score of 12 (PIER, 2016).

Habitat

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M. calabura is a component of the secondary vegetation, and thus its occurrence is largely favored by disturbance (Avedaño-Reyes, 2006). It is a typical pioneer species in disturbed lowland tropical forests where it colonizes light gaps. Also commonly found in abandoned pastures, agricultural lands, forest edges, vacant lots, and along roadsides and margins of waterways (Webb, 1984). Thekkayam (2009) notes that the seeds can germinate in the crevices of cemented rooftops. It occurs from sea level up to 1300 m (NAS, 1980). In South-East Asia it is one of the most common roadside trees, especially in the drier parts such as in eastern Java. It establishes itself in trodden yards and along shop fronts where no other tree takes root.

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number of M. calabura has been reported as 2= 26 (Nevado and Ramirez, 1991), 2n = 28 (Bawa, 1973) and 2n = 30 (Löve, 1982). Nevado and Ramirez (1991) reported high pollen fertility (85.3%) and some chromosomal aberrations which include non-congression and early disjunction in metaphase I, and laggards in telophase II.

Growth and Development

Inflorescences are initiated by the growing shoot along with the subtending leaf, and develop along with this leaf, the fruit maturing shortly before the leaf falls. The flower fascicle is inserted supra-axillary, up to halfway along the internode. In the axil proper of the same leaves, side shoots are formed; these emerge before the inflorescence flowers, but extension growth is delayed until after the abscission of the subtending leaf. Under favourable conditions flowering fascicles are formed with every third leaf, but this may be delayed until the fifth, seventh or ninth leaf, or indefinitely. Side shoots are spaced further apart, but like the fascicles, they normally alternate along the branch. Thus growth and development are neatly structured at the shoot level, in a system which allows continuous extension growth and fruit production. Flexibility is afforded by varying the spacing of the fascicles, the number of flowers per fascicle and the sex expression of each flower.

Physiology and Phenology

M. calabura flowers and fruits all year round (Bawa and Webb, 1983; Webb, 1984; Fleming et al., 1985; Figueiredo et al., 2008), but the rate of flower and fruit production is not constant throughout the year. In Costa Rica, the flowering peak occurs at the end of the dry season (from April to May), while the fruiting peak occurs at the start of the wet season (from May to June) (Fleming et al., 1985). In Southeastern Brazil, the flowering and fruiting peaks occur from September to December, coinciding also with the end of the dry season and the start of the wet season (Figueiredo et al., 2008). In India, one flowering and fruiting peak occurs during monsoon season (July-October), and another peak takes place during winter-summer season (December-May) (Srikumar and Bhat, 2013).

Reproductive Biology

M. calabura starts producing flowers by the age of two years (Fleming et al., 1985). The flowers in a fascicle open sequentially at intervals ranging from 4-9 days. Within 2 weeks from the opening of the last flower, the first flower of the following fascicle may already reach bloom. A series of remarkable pedicel movements lifts each flower bud above the plane of the plagiotropic shoot just before anthesis and turns the flower to a pendant position within 2 days from fruit set.

The flowers, which are displayed above the branches, open at dawn and last only one day. They emit a weak sweet scent, and are visited by small and medium-sized bees, butterflies, hoverflies, ants, diurnal moths and hummingbirds (Bawa and Webb, 1983; Figueiredo et al., 2008). Bees appear to be the main pollinators (Webb, 1984). In an urban area in Southeastern Brazil, the stingless bee Trigona spinipes along with the African honey bee were the most frequent visitors (Figueiredo et al., 2008).

Flowers are bisexual, but very variable with respect to pistil size and number of stamens (Bawa and Webb, 1983). Within a tree, some flowers have a large ovary and very few stamens (less than 10), while others have a reduced ovary and many stamens (more than 100). Most of the flowers, however, are intermediate between these two extremes. Flower form strongly depends on the order in which flowers open in the cluster. Those that open first have larger ovaries and fewer stamens (Bawa and Webb, 1983).

Nectar is produced by all flower forms, although flowers with a large ovary and few stamens tend to produce higher quantities. The nectar can be classified as hexose-rich, which is the type used by small bees, and has similar proportion of sugars and other chemicals among the different flower forms (Bawa and Webb, 1983). It contains 13 different amino acids of which proline is the most abundant. Its production starts before dawn and continues until midday or early afternoon (Bawa and Webb, 1983).

Controlled pollination studies showed that this species is self-compatible, and that pollen is required for fruit production (Bawa and Webb, 1983). Although all flowers produce viable pollen and have the potential to produce fruit, fruit production varies significantly with flower form. Flowers with large ovaries almost always produce fruits, while flowers with reduced ovaries rarely produce fruits. Of all flowers with intermediate characteristics, ca. 50% produce fruits, which indicates that the probability of producing fruits is positively correlated with ovary size (Bawa and Webb, 1983). Once flowers are pollinated, the young fruits drop below the leaves, thus reducing the possibility of interference between pollinators and dispersers (Webb, 1984).

The fruits reach their maximum diameter (10-15 mm) at 40-60 days after pollination. Fully ripe fruits contain more water, carbohydrates and nitrogen, but less fibre, than green fruits (Fleming et al., 1985). They are consumed by birds, bats, monkeys and squirrels who disperse the several thousand seeds (see Natural Dispersal section). Germination tests showed that seeds that passed through the digestive tract of bats and birds germinate in similar proportions to seeds that were not ingested by animals (Fleming et al., 1985; Figueiredo et al., 2008), but those consumed by bats germinate faster (Figueiredo et al., 2008).

The seed is well-represented in the seed banks of forest soils and requires the high temperature and light conditions of large gaps in the forest for germination; the seedlings do not tolerate shade. Seeds germinate between 20 and 35°C. The optimal germination temperature was reported as 35°C (Leite and Takaki, 2001) or 25 °C (Lopes et al., 2002). Germination starts after 6-7 days and can continue for 35-40 days after sowing (Leite and Takaki, 2001; Figueiredo et al., 2008). Highest germination percentages and highest germination speed are obtained when seeds are subjected to prolonged white light exposure (more than 6 hours). Germination is inhibited under far-red light, and in the absence of light (Leite and Takaki, 2001; Lopes et al., 2002). Lopes et al. (2002) reported that seeds retaining their mucilaginous coat do not germinate, either in presence or absence of light.

Longevity

Fleming et al. (1985) estimated that the maximum longevity of M. calabura is about 30 years.

Population Size and Structure

The density and spatial distribution of trees of M. calabura appears to depend strongly on the site disturbance history and on the foraging activity of dispersers. In a Costa Rican dry forest, Fleming et al. (1985) reported 160-4,500 stems/ha in recently disturbed sites with a large availability of light gaps (e.g. along roadsides). In older, less disturbed forests, the tree density was low (1-5 trees/ha) (Fleming et al., 1985).

Associations

In the Neotropics, M. calabura is often associated with other early-successional tree and shrub species including Ochroma pyramidale (Malvaceae), Cecropia spp. (Urticaceae), Trema spp. (Cannabaceae), Piper spp. (Piperaceae), Casearia spp. (Salicaceae) and Luehea spp. (Malvaceae).

Environmental Requirements

M. calabura is a full sun species that grows best in a humid tropical climate (NAS, 1980). High temperatures and light conditions are necessary for seed germination, and for the development of seedlings, which are highly shade-intolerant (Fleming et al., 1985). It can grow on most soil types, both acid and alkaline, and even on poor substrates, but tends to prefer well-drained and sandy soils (NAS, 1980; Morton, 1987) and a pH of 5.5-6.5. In the Caribbean, Muntingia is commonly found on well-drained limestone. In the Pacific islands, the species has been recommended for planting on sandy coral soils (NAS, 1980). Lopes et al. (2002) reported that the best substrate for germination is sand.

The optimal temperature range for its successful growth is 22-32°C. The tree is sensitive to frost, but can withstand occasional low winter temperatures, for example in Florida (Morton, 1987). The most favourable range of mean annual rainfall is 1,400-2,000 mm, but the plant tolerates 1,000-2,400 mm (Useful Tropical Plants, 2016). It is also resistant to drought and to air pollution (Morton, 1987) but salt tolerance is poor.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
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 Tolerated < 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])
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
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)
40 -40 0 1300

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 0
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 15 35
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 23 37
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 9 22

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration06number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall10002400mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal
Uniform

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Anastrepha suspensa Predator Fruit bodies not specific
Bactrocera correcta Predator Fruit bodies not specific
Bactrocera dorsalis Predator Fruit bodies not specific
Bactrocera neohumeralis Predator Fruit bodies not specific
Ceratitis capitata Predator Fruit bodies not specific
Chaetomella raphigera Pathogen not specific
Eudocima fullonia Predator Fruit bodies not specific
Globisporangium irregulare Pathogen Roots not specific
Glomerella cingulata Pathogen not specific
Helopeltis antonii Predator Fruit bodies not specific
Marasmiellus scandens Pathogen not specific
Phanerochaete salmonicolor Pathogen Stems not specific
Phellinus noxius Pathogen Roots/Stems not specific
Phloeosporella muntingiae Pathogen Leaves to species
Phyllosticta Pathogen Leaves not specific
Pseudocercospora muntingiae Pathogen Leaves to species
Pseudocercospora muntingiicola Pathogen Leaves to species

Notes on Natural Enemies

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M. calabura is susceptible to a number of pathogens, many of them fungi that infect the leaves, stems and roots. These include: Phloeosporella muntingiae, Pseudocercospora spp., Chaetomella spp., Phyllosticta spp., Colletotrichumgloeosporioides, Marasmiellus scandens, Phanerochaete salmonicolor [Erythricium salmonicolor], Phellinus noxius, and Pythium irregulare [Globisporangium irregular] (Bagyanarayana et al., 1992; Farr and Rossman, 2016). Phloeosporella muntingiae, Pseudocercosporamuntingiae and Pseudocercosporamuntingiicola, three pathogenic fungi that produce brown spots on leaves, appear to be specific to this species (Bagyanarayana et al., 1992; Parreira et al., 2009). Morton (1987) reports that the tree can also be affected by the crown gall disease caused by Agrobacterium tumefaciens.

At least six species of tephritid fruit flies have been reported infesting the fruits: Anastrepha suspensa (Caribbean fruit fly), Bactrocera correcta (guava fruit fly), Bactrocera dorsalis (Oriental fruit fly), Bactrocera papayae (Asian papaya fruit fly), Bactrocera neohumeralis (lesser Queensland fruit fly) and Ceratitis capitata (Mediterranean fruit fly). Larvae of these tephritid flies feed on the fruit flesh producing the fruit decay (Swanson and Baranowski, 1972; White and Elson-Harris, 1992; Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2004; USDA, 2014). Fruits are also damaged by the fruit-piercing moth (Eudocima fullonia) (Davis et al., 2005), and by the tea mosquito bug (Helopeltis antonii) in Southeast Asia (Srikumar and Bhat, 2013).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

The seeds of M. calabura are dispersed by vertebrates that ingest the sweet juicy fruits. In a Costa Rican dry forest, at least 16 species (six species of birds, six of phyllostomid bats, two species of monkeys, one squirrel and one coati) are known to eat the fruits (Fleming et al., 1985). The bats Carollia perspicillata and Glosophaga soricina are the main nocturnal seed dispersers, along with the diurnal orange-chinned parakeet (Brotogeris jugularis).

In an urban area in Southeastern Brazil, 14 species of birds were observed consuming the fruits. The most frequent consumers were the sayaca tanager (Thraupis sayaca) and the plain parakeet (Brogoteris tirica) (Figueiredo et al., 2008). In urban Hong Kong, four species of birds, including the Japanese white-eyes (Zosterops japonicus) were recorded as fruit consumers (Corlett, 2005). In India, Thailand, peninsular Malaysia and Borneo, Muntingia fruits are commonly ingested by Cynopterus bats (Tan et al., 1998; Singaravelan and Marimuthu, 2006; Bumrungsri et al., 2007; Phillipps and Phillipps, 2016). Bats and green pigeons (Treron spp.) are thought to be primarily responsible for the presence of M. calabura in vacant building lots in Borneo (Phillipps and Phillipps, 2016).

In addition to vertebrates, fungus-growing ants may also possibly act as dispersers. In Southeastern Brazil, these ants were observed collecting the tiny seeds from fallen fruits and from bats and birds droppings (Figueiredo et al., 2008). Dispersal may also be influenced by rainfall drainage patterns. Seeds can be moved with water from the initial sites of deposition to the draining areas within the forests (Fleming et al.,1985). The species can be also easily propagated by cuttings and suckers (NAS, 1980; Sunshine seeds, 2016).

Accidental Introduction

M. calabura has been accidentally introduced in greenhouses/nurseries of USA, Spain and New Zealand via coco fibre imported from Sri Lanka (Hrusa et al., 2002; James et al., 2012; Ferrer Gallego and Laguna Lumbreras, 2013). In the Seychelles, it most probably arrived with the machinery used for the dredging and reclamation of the east coast of Mahé (Gerlach, 1996).

Intentional Introduction

M. calabura has been intentionally introduced in many Old World countries as a shade and fruit tree (NAS, 1980).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Botanical gardens and zoos Yes Yes Morton, 1987
Digestion and excretionBats and birds disperse the seeds Yes Yes NAS, 1980
Escape from confinement or garden escapeNaturalized in many countries; bats and birds disperse the seeds Yes Yes NAS, 1980
HorticultureIntroduced in many countries as an ornamental and fruit tree Yes Yes NAS, 1980
Internet salesSeeds and potted plants are sold online Yes Yes Top Tropicals, 2016
Nursery tradeTraded as an ornamental and fruit tree. The tiny seeds can travel inadvertently in horticultural substrates Yes Yes Hrusa et al., 2002
Ornamental purposesPlanted as an ornamental shade tree Yes Yes NAS, 1980
Seed tradeSeeds sold online Yes Yes Top Tropicals, 2016

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Machinery and equipmentProbably arrived to Seychelles with the machinery imported for the dredging of the coast of Mahé Yes Gerlach, 1996
MailSeeds and potted plants are sold online Yes Yes Top Tropicals, 2016
Mulch, straw, baskets and sodAccidentally introduced in greenhouses/nurseries of California, Spain and New Zealand via coco fiber imported from Sri Lanka Yes Hrusa et al., 2002; James et al., 2012
Soil, sand and gravelProbably arrived to Seychelles with soil machinery Yes Gerlach, 1996

Economic Impact

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Because the seeds can be found in imported gardening substrates, the seedlings might be a nuisance in greenhouses (Ferrer Gallego and Laguna Lumbreras, 2013).

This species is a host of several species of insects that are considered serious pests of many tropical and subtropical fruits. Among the most damaging are Bactrocera correcta (guava fruit fly), Bactrocera dorsalis (Oriental fruit fly), Eudocima fullonia (fruit-piercing moth), and Helopeltis antonii (tea mosquito bug) (White and Elson-Harris, 1992; Davis et al., 2005; Srikumar and Bhat, 2013).

Environmental Impact

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Specific information on the negative impact of M. calabura in natural ecoystems is very limited. In Nauru, Thaman (1992) reported that M. calabura becomes competitive with native species in disturbed sites along roadsides and in mined areas. This species grows rapidly, reaching 2-3 m by one year of age, and 3-5 m by two years (Fleming et al., 1985). It can quickly invade disturbed areas with a high density of seedlings, although this density declines through time due to intraspecific and interspecific competition with other successional species (Fleming et al., 1985). It has been noted that few or no plants grow under its dense shade (NAS, 1980), which may be due to the presence of allelopathic compounds (Antesa and Antesa, 2012).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
  • Competition - shading
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant

Uses

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Economic Value

A number of bioactive compounds, mostly flavonoids (flavones, flavanones and flavans), have been isolated from the roots, bark, wood, leaves and flowers of M. calabura. Extracts containing these compounds have been reported to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, anticancer, hypotensive and antipyretic properties among others, so the species has great potential for the development of plant-derived drugs (Kuo et al., 2014; Mahmood et al., 2014). Muntingia might also be exploited as a source of insecticide and fungicide. Hexane and alcoholic extracts from flowers and fruits exhibited strong insecticidal activity against the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella), one of the most difficult pests to control (Bandeira et al., 2013). A formulation developed from the roots showed inhibitory activity against the fungal pathogen Alternaria solani, which produces the early blight disease in tomato and potato (Rajesh et al., 2014).

The wood pulp has potential for the production of cellulose (NAS, 1980). A granular biomaterial prepared from a mixture of leaves, fruits and twigs was effective in the removal of cationic dyes from dye-contaminated waters (Santhi et al., 2009). The fruits have been tested for ethanol production with Saccharomyces cervisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe (Thangadurai et al., 2014).

Social Benefit

M. calabura is commonly planted as an ornamental shade tree, and for its edible sweet fruits, which are eaten raw or cooked into jams and preserves (NAS, 1980; Morton, 1987). The berries are sold in local Mexican markets and are very popular in the Philippines with children. In most cases it is not a plant cultivated for its fruit and they are usually gathered from spontaneous trees (Janick and Paull, 2008). Different parts of the plant are used for medicinal purposes in several countries (Mahmood et al., 2014). The leaves are also used to make a tea-like beverage (Morton, 1987; Useful Tropical Plants, 2016). The bark yields a tough fibre that is used for twine, ropes and baskets, and in the construction of rural houses (Smith, 1965; NAS, 1980; Morton, 1987). The lightweight wood is utilized in carpentry, domestic utensils, and for fuel (Morton, 1987; Useful Tropical Plants, 2016). When thoroughly dry, the wood "ignites quickly producing a high flame with little smoke" (NAS, 1980). In Brazil, the fruits are said to serve as bait, "attracting fish for the benefit of fishermen" (Morton, 1987).

Muntingia is also a suitable shade tree for livestock (NAS, 1980), and is used as fodder/forage for cattle and goats in the Philippines (Calub, 2003). It is a melliferous plant. It has been reported as one of the species most commonly found in the pollen loads of honeybees in the Philippines (Payawal et al., 1991), and in the honey from a coffee-growing region of Northern Colombia (Montoya-Pfeiffer et al., 2014). It is also used in rituals (purification baths and cleansings) in the Afro-Cuban religion (Quiros-Moran, 2009).

Environmental Services

As an early successional species, M. calabura contributes to the regeneration of forests by creating the conditions for the establishment of middle and late successional species. Due to its ability to grow on denuded lands and to tolerate air pollution, this species has been considered as a candidate for reforestation projects (Morton, 1987).

The flowers are attractive to a wide range of pollinators. The fruits provide food to a number of diurnal and nocturnal vertebrates, including hummingbirds. In Brazil, Ruschi (2014) reported that the blue chinned sapphire (Chlorostilbon notatus) sucks the sweet juice of fruits in a similar fashion to nectar feeding. The fruits are so prized by these hummingbirds that the males aggressively defend the plants against intruders (Ruschi, 2014). Many species of insects, e.g. beetles, bugs, wasps and flies, also consume the pulp of ripe fruits (Fleming et al., 1985; Ruschi, 2014).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Bait/attractant
  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage
  • Invertebrate food

Drugs, stimulants, social uses

  • Religious

Environmental

  • Agroforestry
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Landscape improvement
  • Revegetation
  • Shade and shelter
  • Wildlife habitat

Fuels

  • Fuelwood

General

  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Ritual uses

Human food and beverage

  • Fruits
  • Honey/honey flora
  • Leaves (for beverage)

Materials

  • Alcohol
  • Bark products
  • Baskets
  • Fibre
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Pesticide
  • Wood/timber

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Potted plant
  • Seed trade

Wood Products

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Containers

  • Boxes
  • Vats

Other cellulose derivatives

Sawn or hewn building timbers

  • Carpentry/joinery (exterior/interior)
  • For light construction

Prevention and Control

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Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures

In Palau, it has been recommended to discontinue planting this species, and to consider eradication outside cultivation before it spreads further (Space et al., 2009).

Physical/Mechanical Control

Saplings and small plants can be pulled by hand, while larger plants can be uprooted using different tools (Koh et al., 2012). Tree girdling and stem cutting are not effective methods of control of this species (Koh et al., 2012), possibly because the plants may re-sprout.

Chemical Control

M. calabura can be successfully controlled by spraying the foliage with 41% glyphosate solution, but this method requires extensive safety measures and can affect non-targeted plants. Stem cutting combined with the application of 41% glyphosate solution on the stump sapwood is a better alternative, as well as the stem injection with 41% glyphosate solution (Koh et al., 2012).

Bibliography

Top of page Bawa KS, Webb CJ, 1983. Floral variation and sexual differentiation in Muntingia calabura (Elaeocarpaceae), a species with hermaphrodite flowers. Evolution, 37: 1271-1282.

Fleming TH et al., 1985. Phenology, seed dispersal and colonization in Muntingia calabura, a neotropical pioneer tree. American Journal of Botany, 72: 383-391.

Webb CJ, 1984. Flower and fruit movements in Muntingia calabura: a possible mechanism for avoidance of pollinator-dispenser interference. Biotropica, 16: 37-42.

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Dr. Fabiola Areces-Berazain, Herbarium UPRRP, University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras

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