Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Pistia stratiotes
(water lettuce)

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Datasheet

Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 18 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Pistia stratiotes
  • Preferred Common Name
  • water lettuce
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • P. stratiotes is a perennial monocotyledonous aquatic plant present, either naturally or through human introduction, in nearly all tropical and subtropical fresh waterways. It floats on the water surface, with roots hanging below floating...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
P. stratiotes seedlings.
TitleSeedlings
CaptionP. stratiotes seedlings.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
P. stratiotes seedlings.
SeedlingsP. stratiotes seedlings.©Colin Wilson
Pale green leaves, up to 20 x 10 cm. Hairy leaves overlap each other, like a lettuce, and are without petioles. Leaf shape variable, generally spathulate to broadly obovate with a rounded to truncate apex.
TitleLeaves
CaptionPale green leaves, up to 20 x 10 cm. Hairy leaves overlap each other, like a lettuce, and are without petioles. Leaf shape variable, generally spathulate to broadly obovate with a rounded to truncate apex.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Pale green leaves, up to 20 x 10 cm. Hairy leaves overlap each other, like a lettuce, and are without petioles. Leaf shape variable, generally spathulate to broadly obovate with a rounded to truncate apex.
LeavesPale green leaves, up to 20 x 10 cm. Hairy leaves overlap each other, like a lettuce, and are without petioles. Leaf shape variable, generally spathulate to broadly obovate with a rounded to truncate apex.©Colin Wilson
P. stratiotes is a free-floating, stoloniferous plant with sessile leaves in rosettes.
TitleGrowth habit
CaptionP. stratiotes is a free-floating, stoloniferous plant with sessile leaves in rosettes.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
P. stratiotes is a free-floating, stoloniferous plant with sessile leaves in rosettes.
Growth habitP. stratiotes is a free-floating, stoloniferous plant with sessile leaves in rosettes.©Colin Wilson
P. stratiotes infestation on a lake. IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria.
TitleInfestation
CaptionP. stratiotes infestation on a lake. IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
P. stratiotes infestation on a lake. IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria.
InfestationP. stratiotes infestation on a lake. IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria.©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Pistia stratiotes L.

Preferred Common Name

  • water lettuce

Other Scientific Names

  • Apiospermun obcordatum (Schleid.) Klotzsch
  • Limnonesis commutate (Schleid.) Klotzsch
  • Limnonesis friedrichsthaliana Klotzsch
  • Pistia aegyptiaca Schleid
  • Pistia aethiopica Fenzl ex Klotszch
  • Pistia africana C. Presl
  • Pistia amazonica C. Presl
  • Pistia asiatica Lour.
  • Pistia brasiliensis Klotszch
  • Pistia commutata Schleid
  • Pistia crispate Blume
  • Pistia cumingii Klotszch
  • Pistia gardneri Klotszch
  • Pistia horkeliana Miq.
  • Pistia leprieuri Blume
  • Pistia linguiformis Blume
  • Pistia minor Blume
  • Pistia natalensis Klotzsch
  • Pistia obcordata Schleid
  • Pistia occidentalis Blume
  • Pistia schleideniana Klotzsch
  • Pistia spathulata Michx.
  • Pistia stratiotes var cuneata Engl.
  • Pistia stratiotes var obcordata (Schleid.) Engl.
  • Pistia stratiotes var spathulata (Michx.) Engl.
  • Pistia texensis Klotzsch
  • Pistia turpini Blume
  • Pistia turpinii K. Koch
  • Pistia weigeltiana C. Presl

International Common Names

  • English: floating aroid; Nile cabbage; pistia; shell-flower; tropical duckweed; water bonnet; water cabbage; water fern; water lily
  • Spanish: flor de tetumo; lamparilla; lechuga de agua; lechuguilla; lechuguilla de vaca; lechuguita de aqua; repollito de sapo; repollo de agua; repollo de sapo; verdolago de agua
  • French: laitue d'eau; pistie; salade d’eau

Local Common Names

  • Bangladesh: tokapan
  • Brazil: alface-d'agua; flor-d’agua; repolho-d’agua
  • Cambodia: chak thom; chal thom
  • Cuba: lechuga cimarrona
  • Czech Republic: babelka ezanovitá
  • Dominican Republic: patico
  • El Salvador: verdolaga de agua
  • Germany: Wassersalat
  • Hungary: kagylótutaj
  • India: akasathamarai; antharathamra; boranjhanji; jalakumbi; kumbi
  • Indonesia: apon-apon; apu-apu; kiapu
  • Italy: pistia
  • Lesser Antilles: chance; godapail
  • Malaysia: kiambang
  • Netherlands: slakroos
  • Portugal/Azores: alface-de-água
  • South Africa: waterslaai
  • Thailand: chok; jawg
  • Venezuela: lechuga de río; repollo de agua
  • Vietnam: beo cai

EPPO code

  • PIIST (Pistia stratiotes)

Summary of Invasiveness

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P. stratiotes is a perennial monocotyledonous aquatic plant present, either naturally or through human introduction, in nearly all tropical and subtropical fresh waterways. It floats on the water surface, with roots hanging below floating leaves. Its growth habit can make it a weed in waterways, where it can kill native submerged plants and reduce biodiversity. It is a common aquatic weed in the USA, and may clog waterways in warmer states such as Florida. It is listed as a noxious weed or invasive aquatic plant in some states of the USA (USDA-NRCS, 2012).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Arales
  •                         Family: Araceae
  •                             Genus: Pistia
  •                                 Species: Pistia stratiotes

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Pistia stratiotes L. is a monocotyledon, belonging to the family Araceae. The genus Pistia is monospecific with its only species P. stratiotes, described by Linnaeus in 1753.

Description

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P. stratiotes is a free-floating, stoloniferous plant with sessile leaves in rosettes. Leaves pale-green, up to 20 cm long and 10 cm wide, mostly spathulate to broadly obovate with a rounded to truncate apex, with  7-15 prominent veins radiating fanwise from the base; both surfaces , in particular the lower surface, covered by a dense mat of white woolly hairs (Cook et al., 1974; Aston, 1977; Holm et al., 1977; Sainty and Jacobs, 1981). Inflorescence axillary, solitary, ascending; spathe 1.3-1.5 cm long, convolute and adnate to the spadix below, spreading above, whitish; spadix with a single pistillate flower at base, and with 2-8 staminate flowers above, shorter than the spathe. Flowers unisexual, the perianth wanting; stamens 2; ovary 1-locular, with numerous ovules, the style slender, the stigma penicillate. Fruit thin-walled, many-seeded. Seeds cylindrical, rugulose. (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Nicolson, 2005)

The morphology of Pistia varies largely owing to the influence of environmental factors. In a survey of two populations in ponds of distinct hydrochemical characteristics, two biotypes were identified that propagate true. The biotypes were distinct regarding biomass, productivity allocation, pH of the cell saps, chlorophyll, nucleic acids, total free amino acid content of the leaves and total nitrogen, crude protein and phosphorus in whole plants (Rao and Reddy, 1984). The leaves rise into the air, but under conditions less favourable for optimal growth they may lie flat on the water.

Distribution

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According to Holm et al. (1977), Pistia is one of the most widely distributed hydrophytes. It has a cosmopolitan distribution throughout tropical and sub-tropical regions. In South and Central America, Africa and South-East Asia it is considered an endogenous species. While Blake (1954) and others indicate that it was introduced into Australia some 50 years ago (it was first observed during a survey in 1946/47), Gillet et al. (1988) present evidence for it being indigenous in the Northern Territory. Parsons and Cuthbertson (2001) reference a record in the Northern Territory from 1887, where a complement of organisms naturally regulates its population. Since P. stratiotes has not been recorded at nuisance levels in this area, it is highly possible that northern Australia is part of the plant’s native range.

The widespread distribution in most countries with a tropical climate may be the result of its ancient use as medicine for humans, as well as its use as fodder for cattle and pigs (Sculthorpe, 1971). The growth area of Pistia seems to be limited by low temperatures (see Small, 1933; Muenscher, 1967; Wiggins, 1980). However, scattered ephemeral populations have been reported in cold climates in the Netherlands, the Erie Canal in upstate New York and in Lake Erie in northern Ohio (Dray and Center, 2002). In these colder areas, the plant can act like an annual, re-infesting from seed each spring. Other ephemeral populations may rely on actual re-introductions. P. stratiotes is a popular aquarium plant that is often discarded in waterbodies during the summer season. In the summer of 1976 there was an excessive growth of Pistia in an area southeast of the Hague, Netherlands (see Pieterse et al., 1981). The plants died during the following winter season. In northern Africa, Pistia occurs in the Nile Delta in Egypt, but in this area, in contrast to many tropical regions, it is not a major aquatic weed (Täckholm, 1974).

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: 25 Feb 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

AngolaPresent, Widespread
BeninPresentInvasive
BotswanaPresentIntroducedInvasive
Burkina FasoPresent
BurundiPresentIntroducedInvasive
CameroonPresentOriginal citation: Hepper, 1968
Central African RepublicPresent
ChadPresent
ComorosPresent
Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresent
Côte d'IvoirePresentInvasive
EgyptPresent
Equatorial GuineaPresent
EswatiniPresent
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
GabonPresent
GambiaPresent
GhanaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveWeija Lake, River Volta, Volta Lake, Tano River and Lagoon complex, Kpong Headpond, Barekese Dam, Owabi Dam, Kwanyako Dam, Mankessim Dam, Dawhenya Reservoir; other water bodies countrywide; Original citation: deGraft-Johnson and Akpabey (2015)
GuineaPresent
Guinea-BissauPresent
KenyaPresentIntroducedInvasive
LesothoPresent
LiberiaPresentOriginal citation: Hepper, 1968
MadagascarPresent, Widespread
MalawiPresentIntroducedInvasive
MaliPresent
MauritaniaPresent
MauritiusPresent
MoroccoPresent
MozambiquePresent, Widespread
NamibiaPresent
NigerPresent
NigeriaPresent, Widespread
RéunionPresentIntroducedInvasive
RwandaPresent
SenegalPresent, Widespread
SeychellesPresentIntroduced
Sierra LeonePresentOriginal citation: Hepper, 1968
SomaliaPresent
South AfricaPresent
SudanPresent
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedInvasive
TogoPresent
UgandaPresentIntroducedInvasive
ZambiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
ZimbabwePresentInvasive

Asia

AfghanistanPresent
BangladeshPresent, Widespread
BruneiPresentIntroducedInvasive
CambodiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
ChinaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-AnhuiPresentIntroducedInvasive
-FujianPresentIntroducedInvasive
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedInvasive
-GuangxiPresentIntroducedInvasive
-HubeiPresentIntroducedInvasive
-HunanPresentIntroducedInvasive
-JiangsuPresentIntroducedInvasive
-JiangxiPresentIntroducedInvasive
-ShandongPresentIntroducedCultivated
-SichuanPresentIntroducedCultivated
-YunnanPresentIntroduced
Hong KongPresent
IndiaPresent, Widespread
-Andhra PradeshPresent
-KeralaPresent
-OdishaPresent
IndonesiaPresent, WidespreadInvasive
IsraelPresent, Few occurrences
JapanPresent
KazakhstanPresentIntroduced
LaosPresent
MalaysiaPresentInvasive
MyanmarPresent
NepalPresent
PakistanPresent
PhilippinesPresentInvasive
SingaporePresent
Sri LankaPresent, Widespread
TaiwanPresentIntroducedInvasive
ThailandPresent, WidespreadInvasive
VietnamPresent

Europe

BelgiumPresentIntroducedNot established
CzechiaPresentIntroducedNot established
FrancePresent, Few occurrences
GermanyPresent, Localized
HungaryPresentIntroduced
ItalyPresent
-SardiniaPresent
NetherlandsPresentIntroducedNot established
PortugalPresentIntroduced
-AzoresPresentIntroduced
RomaniaPresentIntroduced
RussiaPresent
SerbiaPresent
SloveniaPresent
SpainPresent, Localized
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasive
UkrainePresentIntroduced

North America

Antigua and BarbudaPresent
BelizePresent
CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-OntarioPresent
Costa RicaPresent
CubaPresentIntroducedInvasive
Dominican RepublicPresent
El SalvadorPresent
GuadeloupePresent
GuatemalaPresent
HaitiPresent
HondurasPresent
JamaicaPresent
MartiniquePresent
MexicoPresent
MontserratPresent
NicaraguaPresent
PanamaPresentOriginal citation: Fernández et al., 1993
Puerto RicoPresent, WidespreadInvasiveConsidered a weed
Saint LuciaPresent, LocalizedIntroducedOrnamental in ponds, e.g. Dame Pearlette Louisy Primary School, in flood-prone Union valley
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresent
Trinidad and TobagoPresent
U.S. Virgin IslandsPresent
United StatesPresent
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedInvasiveNoxious weed
-ArizonaPresent
-CaliforniaPresent
-ColoradoPresent
-DelawarePresent
-FloridaPresentInvasive
-GeorgiaPresent
-HawaiiPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveHawai’I, Kaua’I, Maui O’ahu
-KansasPresent
-LouisianaPresent
-MarylandPresent
-MississippiPresent
-MissouriPresent
-New JerseyPresent
-New YorkPresent
-North CarolinaPresent
-OhioPresent
-South CarolinaPresent
-TexasPresent

Oceania

AustraliaPresentEvidence exists that could be native to Northern Territory
-New South WalesPresent
-Northern TerritoryPresent
-QueenslandPresent
-Western AustraliaPresent
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasiveRarotonga Island
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedInvasiveTahiti Island
GuamPresentIntroducedInvasive
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedInvasiveIle Grand Terre
New ZealandAbsent, Eradicated
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedRota Island
PalauPresentIntroducedInvasiveBabledaob
Papua New GuineaPresentEastern New Guinea Island
Solomon IslandsPresentNative
VanuatuPresentInvasive

South America

ArgentinaPresent
BoliviaPresentOriginal citation: Fernández et al., 1993
BrazilPresent
-AcrePresentNative
-AlagoasPresentNative
-AmapaPresentNative
-AmazonasPresentNative
-BahiaPresentNative
-CearaPresentNative
-Espirito SantoPresentNative
-GoiasPresentNative
-Mato GrossoPresentNative
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentNative
-Minas GeraisPresentNative
-ParaPresentNative
-ParaibaPresentNative
-ParanaPresentNative
-PernambucoPresentNative
-PiauiPresentNative
-Rio de JaneiroPresentNative
-Rio Grande do NortePresentNative
-Rio Grande do SulPresentNative
-Santa CatarinaPresentNative
-Sao PauloPresentNative
-SergipePresentNative
ChilePresentNative
ColombiaPresent
EcuadorPresentOriginal citation: Fernández et al., 1993
French GuianaPresent
GuyanaPresentOriginal citation: Fernández et al., 1993
ParaguayPresent
PeruPresentOriginal citation: Fernández et al., 1993
SurinamePresent
UruguayPresent
VenezuelaPresent

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Florida South America   Yes No Dray and Center (2002) Experts disagree on origin and nativity

Risk of Introduction

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Pistia occurs in most tropical and sub-tropical regions. Therefore emphasis should be placed on preventing the development of dense vegetation. However, public awareness campaigns could play a role in preventing dispersion by man, for example via market gardens or the aquarium trade. It is conceivable that in certain regions this could prevent Pistia spreading from infested waterbodies to Pistia-free areas.

Habitat

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The general impression is that, although Pistia grows in a very wide variety of aquatic habitats, it prefers relatively stagnant water. Although P. stratiotes is usually a free-floating plant, it can survive for extended periods on moist soil. The plant is sensitive to frost. Its temperature tolerance limits are 15°C (59°F) and 35°C (95°F); the optimal growth temperature range for the plant is 22-30°C (72-86°F) (Rivers, 2002). P. stratiotes has a low salinity tolerance; salt concentrations of 1.66% are toxic to the plant (Haller et al., 1974).

 

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
FreshwaterIrrigation channels Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterLakes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterReservoirs Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterRivers / streams Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
FreshwaterPonds Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
BrackishEstuaries Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
BrackishLagoons Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContextReferences
Oryza sativa (rice)PoaceaeMain

    Biology and Ecology

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    P. stratiotes is a monoecious perennial which reproduces by means of vegetative offshoots that are connected to the mother plant by stolons, which may be 60 cm in length, as well as by the production of seeds. Holm et al. (1977) stated that flowering and fruiting vary by regions and that in most areas, with the exception of Africa, vegetative reproduction is the most important. On the other hand, Dray and Center (1989) concluded that seed germination is an important factor in the dynamics of Pistia populations in the USA. Flowering of Pistia has been induced in vitro under short days, as well as under conditions of continuous light, when the plants were cultured on nutrient media (Pieterse, 1978). Also when plants were grown in a greenhouse they flowered under both long- and short-day conditions and as a consequence it has been concluded that Pistia is a day-neutral plant (Pieterse, 1985). Seed germination was described by Datta and Biswas (1970), Pieterse et al. (1981) and Harley (1990). Datta and Biswas (1970) did not observe germination of seeds when placed on or in mud at the bottom of a beaker of water. These authors ascribed this to a low oxygen or high carbon dioxide concentration, or both, in the water. On the other hand, Pieterse et al. (1981) and Harley (1990) reported germination of Pistia seed when submerged. Holm et al. (1977) describe how seeds germinate on the surface of bottom mud and float to the surface within 5 days. Germination also occurred in the dark but period for germination was longer than under light, and the percent seed germination was lower in the dark than under constant or intermittent light. As a tropical plant Pistia does not survive freezing conditions. Though the seeds are able to survive in ice at -5°C for a few weeks, germination does not occur below 20°C. Seed dispersal has not been studied in detail. However, after shedding the seeds float for 1-2 days and are presumably transported by currents and water fowl, before they sink to the bottom of a waterbody.

    Very few detailed studies have been conducted on the autecology of Pistia. Chadwick and Obeid (1966) reported that optimal growth of Pistia was obtained in water cultures at a pH of approximately 4. Such a high acidity, however, was never found in heavily infested waterbodies. It was shown by Pieterse et al. (1981) that the plant performs best in water with a pH of 7. Pistia showed particularly vigorous growth, although with a relatively small root system, in polluted water in Nigeria (Sharma, 1984).

    In Lake Volta in Ghana it was observed that Pistia biomass varies in the course of the year which could be related to nutrient availability (Hall and Okali, 1974). In Florida there is a marked decline in biomass during the cold season (Dewald and Lounibos, 1990).

    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 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
    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)
    Df - Continental climate, wet all year Tolerated Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)
    Dw - Continental climate with dry winter Tolerated Continental climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry winters)

    Water Tolerances

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    ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
    Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) 5 20 Optimum Tolerates down to 1 and up to 25 mg/l
    Water pH (pH) 6.5 Optimum
    Water temperature (ºC temperature) 22 30 Optimum Tolerates down to 15 and up to 35 C

    Notes on Natural Enemies

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    The Neotropics support 21 herbivorous species that exploit P. stratiotes; 5 are reported from Africa, 11 occur in Asia, and 9 insects feed on waterlettuce in Florida (Dray and Center, 2002). One of the most well studied enemies is the weevil Neohydronomus affinis. The original habitat of this promising biological control agent is South America. Neohydronomus spp. are specialist feeders on P. stratiotes throughout their natural distribution in Central and South America. Confusion over the identity of the Neohydronomus sp. introduced into Australia for biological control was clarified by O'Brien and Wibmer (1989) who recognised three species. There are a number of other P. stratiotes specialists that hold promise for use as agents of biological control. Larvae of the moth Argyractis drumalis have been found exclusively on P. stratiotes roots. The weevil Argentinorhynchus bruchi has been reported to feed, oviposit and complete larval development only on P. stratiotes. The noctuid moth Spodoptera pectinicornis was tested with 125 different plant species, but was found to complete development only on P. stratiotes and the weevil Bagous pistiae is known exclusively from P. stratiotes (see Dray and Center (2002) for detailed biocontrol information). Several other organisms cause damage to Pistia, but these generally are polyphagous.

    A further range of organisms attacking P. stratiotes has been recorded from Northern Territory, Australia. These include Nymphula spp., Hydrozetes tobaicus, Nisia atrovenosa and Cercospora canescens (Gillett et al., 1988). See also Waterhouse (1993) for a listing of natural enemies of P. stratiotes.

    Impact Summary

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

    Economic Impact

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    P. stratiotes can seriously interfere with paddy crops (Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse, 1993). Although no accurate measurement is available of the loss of water needed for agriculture through transpiration from beds of P. stratiotes, losses are believed to be considerable (Holm et al., 1977).

    P. stratiotes is one of the major aquatic weeds in tropical and sub-tropical regions. It rapidly forms dense mats which may completely cover the surface of the water. Consequently, such dense stands of Pistia may have serious negative effects on the multifunctional human use of waterbodies. These harmful effects include impediment of the transport of irrigation and drainage water, interference with hydro-electric schemes from artificial lakes, hindering navigation and fishing and the creation of habitats favourable for the transmittance of water-borne diseases (Mbati and Neuenschwander, 2005). In this context it should be noted that larvae of Mansonia mosquitos may directly obtain oxygen from the roots of Pistia (Gangstad and Cardarelli, 1990).

    Environmental Impact

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    P. stratiotes causes changes in both the physiochemical and biological characteristics of waterbodies it inhabits. Cai (2006) reports that growth of P. stratiotes causes increases in transparency, nitrate, ammonium, total nitrogen, total phosphorus and total bacteria, as well as a decrease in pH, DO, permanganate index, total plankton and plankton species diversity. The plant also influenced the size structure of planktonic communities, causing a miniaturization of plankton volume. Dray and Center (2002) review additional ecological impacts of P. stratiotes and note that they include increased rates of siltation, slowing of water velocities, degradation of fish nesting sites, increased nutrient loading, thermal stratification, increase in alkalinity and fish and macroinvertebrate mortality.

    Threatened Species

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    Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
    Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus (Everglade snail kite)USA ESA listing as endangered speciesFloridaEcosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service (2008)

    Risk and Impact Factors

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    Invasiveness
    • Invasive in its native range
    • Proved invasive outside its native range
    • Has a broad native range
    • Abundant in its native range
    • Tolerant of shade
    • 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
    • Reproduces asexually
    Impact outcomes
    • Conflict
    • Damaged ecosystem services
    • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
    • Infrastructure damage
    • Modification of hydrology
    • Modification of natural benthic communities
    • Modification of nutrient regime
    • Monoculture formation
    • Negatively impacts agriculture
    • Negatively impacts cultural/traditional practices
    • Negatively impacts human health
    • Negatively impacts livelihoods
    • Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
    • Negatively impacts tourism
    • Reduced amenity values
    • Reduced native biodiversity
    • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
    • Threat to/ loss of native species
    • Transportation disruption
    Impact mechanisms
    • Competition - monopolizing resources
    • Competition - shading
    • Competition - smothering
    • Pest and disease transmission
    • Interaction with other invasive species
    • Rapid growth
    Likelihood of entry/control
    • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
    • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
    • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
    • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
    • Difficult/costly to control

    Uses List

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    Animal feed, fodder, forage

    • Fodder/animal feed

    Environmental

    • Biological control
    • Revegetation
    • Wildlife habitat

    Fuels

    • Biofuels
    • Miscellaneous fuels

    General

    • Botanical garden/zoo
    • Ornamental
    • Pet/aquarium trade
    • Sociocultural value

    Prevention and Control

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    Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

    Management of Pistia can be carried out by physical, chemical or biological control or by a combination of these methods (integrated control).

    Physical/Mechanical Control

    Physical removal of the plants can be done manually or by means of machines. Depending on the size and type of the infested waterbody different machines can be used. Weeds may be removed from irrigation and drainage canals using standard equipment such as mowing buckets attached to a tractor or a hydraulic excavator, as well as mowing launches. In general Pistia plants will grow in a mixed vegetation with rooted plants and by using these machines the total aquatic vegetation will be removed (see Wade, 1990). Special floating harvesters, which first collect the material and subsequently dump it on the shore, may be used in lakes and rivers. However, it should be taken into consideration that, in general, re-colonization of Pistia will occur. This implies that control measures should be part of a long-term maintenance programme. Cost effectiveness of the control measures will depend on the losses brought about by Pistia infestation. This will be connected with the economic importance of the waterbody as well as the indirect effect on health of the local population via water-borne diseases.

    Biological Control

    Neohydronomus spp. are specialist feeders on P. stratiotes throughout its natural distribution in Central and South America. Confusion over the identity of the Neohydronomus sp. introduced into Australia for biological control was clarified by O'Brien and Wibmer (1989) who recognised three species. Very promising results have been obtained with the weevil Neohydronomus affinis (Hustache) which originated in South America. DeLoach et al. (1976) reported its specificity, and in 1982 it was released in Australia and subsequently in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Benin, Senegal, South Africa, Papua New Guinea and USA (see Harley et al., 1990; ECOWAS, 1995). The insect is well established in these countries, producing relatively high levels of control.

    Spodoptera pectinicornis is reported to control P. stratiotes in Thailand and has been screened and recommended for introduction into Florida, USA (Habeck and Thompson, 1994). A three-pronged attack using the related weevils Argentinorhynchus bruchi, Argentinorhynchus breyeri and Argentinorhynchus squamosus have been successful in controlling the weed’s spread in lab tests in Argentina (Anonymous, 2001). Several species of fungus have also been evaluated; Ramularia spp. (Fernandes and Barreto, 2005) and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Waipara et al., 2006) have shown potential for controlling P. stratiotes populations. See Waterhouse (1994) and Dray and Center (2002) for further information on biocontrol of P. stratiotes.

    Chemical Control

    Herbicides effective against Pistia include diquat (Thayer and Haller, 1985), a combination of diquat and triclopyr (Langeland and Smith, 1993), glyphosate (Thayer and Haller, 1985; Van et al., 1986), chlorsulfuron (Madin, 1984), terbutryn (Vermeulen et al., 1996), 2,4-D (Langeland and Smith, 1993) and endothall (Rivers, 2002).

    The application of herbicides in or near waterbodies may have serious consequences for the environment. It may also endanger the health of local people if the water is used for drinking, bathing, swimming or washing. These possibilities have to be carefully assessed before the use of herbicides on any but a limited experimental basis. A special formulation of diuron known as AF101 has been recommended in Australia, as well as diquat (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).

     

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    Links to Websites

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    WebsiteURLComment
    GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
    Global Invasive Species Databasehttp://www.issg.org/databaseThe GISD aims to increase awareness about invasive alien species and to facilitate effective prevention and management. It is managed by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) of the Species Survival Commission.
    Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
    Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)http://www.hear.org/Pier/index.html
    University of Florida and Sea Granthttp://aquat1.ifas.ufl.edu/node/634

    Contributors

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    30/08/13 Updated by:

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

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

    06/05/2009 Updated by:

    Alison Mikulyuk, Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources, Science Operations Center, 2801 Progress Rd, Madison, WI 53716, USA

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