Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Tithonia diversifolia
(Mexican sunflower)

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Datasheet

Tithonia diversifolia (Mexican sunflower)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 03 July 2020
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Tithonia diversifolia
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Mexican sunflower
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Tithonia diversifolia is a herbaceous flowering plant that has been widely introduced as an ornamental and has escaped from cultivation to become invasive, mostly in disturbed sites, along roadsides and in ruderal areas near cultivation....

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Tithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and leaves Haliimaile, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2009.
TitleFlowers and leaves
CaptionTithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and leaves Haliimaile, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Tithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and leaves Haliimaile, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2009.
Flowers and leavesTithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and leaves Haliimaile, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Tithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); habit. Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May, 2009.
TitleHabit
CaptionTithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); habit. Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May, 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Tithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); habit. Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May, 2009.
HabitTithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); habit. Kula, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May, 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Tithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); habit, bush growing along a foot path in Uganda. February, 2014.
TitleHabit
CaptionTithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); habit, bush growing along a foot path in Uganda. February, 2014.
Copyright©Winnifred Aool-2014
Tithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); habit, bush growing along a foot path in Uganda. February, 2014.
HabitTithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); habit, bush growing along a foot path in Uganda. February, 2014.©Winnifred Aool-2014
Tithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); leaves. Uganda. February, 2014.
TitleLeaves
CaptionTithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); leaves. Uganda. February, 2014.
Copyright©Winnifred Aool-2014
Tithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); leaves. Uganda. February, 2014.
LeavesTithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); leaves. Uganda. February, 2014.©Winnifred Aool-2014
Tithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and leaves. Uganda. February, 2014.
TitleFlowers and leaves
CaptionTithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and leaves. Uganda. February, 2014.
Copyright©Winnifred Aool-2014
Tithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and leaves. Uganda. February, 2014.
Flowers and leavesTithonia diversifolia (tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and leaves. Uganda. February, 2014.©Winnifred Aool-2014
Tithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and developing seed heads. Haliimaile, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2009.
TitleFlowers and seed heads
CaptionTithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and developing seed heads. Haliimaile, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Tithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and developing seed heads. Haliimaile, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2009.
Flowers and seed headsTithonia diversifolia (Tithonia or tree marigold); flowers and developing seed heads. Haliimaile, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April, 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsley) A. Gray

Preferred Common Name

  • Mexican sunflower

Other Scientific Names

  • Helianthus quinquelobus Sesse & Moc.
  • Mirasolia diversifolia Hemsl.

International Common Names

  • English: giant Mexican sunflower; shrub sunflower; tree marigold
  • Spanish: girasolillo; margarita; margarita gigante; Marisol
  • French: petite fleur soleil; fleur de la fête des Mères
  • Chinese: zhong bing ju
  • Portuguese: girassol mexicano; mao-de-Deus

Local Common Names

  • Australia: Japanese sunflower
  • Cuba: árnica de la tierra; girasolillo; margarita gigante; margarita isleña; margaritona
  • Dominican Republic: escopeta; margarita haitiana
  • El Salvador: guasmara; jacalate; mirasolito
  • Germany: Verschiedenblaettrige Fackelblume
  • Haiti: belle venus; fleurs soleil
  • Indonesia: harsaga; kembang mbulan
  • Indonesia/Java: kembang mbulan
  • Japan: Japanese sunflower
  • Kenya: wild sunflower
  • Mexico: campana; chilicacate
  • Puerto Rico: girasol mejicano; girasol pequeno; mirasol
  • South Africa: Mexikaanse sonneblom
  • Thailand: daoruang-yipun; denchamat-nam; thantawan-nu
  • Uganda: wild sunflower
  • Venezuela: arnica; rayo de sol

EPPO code

  • TITDI (Tithonia diversifolia)

Summary of Invasiveness

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Tithonia diversifolia is a herbaceous flowering plant that has been widely introduced as an ornamental and has escaped from cultivation to become invasive, mostly in disturbed sites, along roadsides and in ruderal areas near cultivation. T. diversifolia is a successful invader of new habitats through its tolerance to heat and drought, its rapid growth rates and its large production of lightweight seeds which are easily dispersed by wind, water and animals. Dormant seeds also remain viable in the soil for up to four months. Once established, T. diversifolia quickly forms dense stands with the potential to outcompete native vegetation and thus prevent the recruitment and growth of native plant species. Allelopathic activity has also been reported for this species.

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The genus Tithonia comprises about 11-20 species with a centre of distribution in Mexico and Central America (Morales, 2000; The Plant List, 2013; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2018). Species within this genus are variable in life forms (i.e. herbs, shrubs, small trees), life span (including annuals and perennials) and in their patterns of distribution ranging from wide distribution to restricted endemism (Morales, 2000). Two species, T. diversifolia and T. rotundifolia, are widely cultivated as ornamentals and have escaped to become invasive weeds in many tropical and subtropical areas around the world (Morales, 2000; Davidse et al., 2018). 

Description

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The following description is from PIER (2018):

Perennials, subshrubs or shrubs, 2 m tall or more. Stems striate, puberulent. Leaves alternate, ovate, or cuneiform, 10-15 cm long, apex acuminate or acute, base acuminate, entire, 3-5-lobed, lobes acute with broad, rounded sinuses, margins often crenate, upper surface velutinous, lower surface scabrous; petiole 5-15 cm long. Heads solitary, radiate, large and showy, ca. 10 cm across; peduncle 8-15 cm long; involucre 2.4-4 cm across, bracts in 3 or 4 series, graduated, imbricate, 1-2 cm long. Ray florets ca. 9-14 in one row, ligules elliptic, 4-6 cm long, apically 2- or 3-dentate, puberulent on abaxial surface. Disc florets numerous, ca. 15 mm long, corolla tubular, pubescent on abaxial surface, lobes yellow. Achenes dark brown, flat, somewhat triquetrous, 5-6 mm long, sericeous. Pappus of 2 sturdy awns and several shorter, broader scales that are connate at base, awns 4-5 mm long.

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Woody

Distribution

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Tithonia diversifolia is native to Mexico and Central America. It has been widely introduced throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the world and it can now be found cultivated and naturalized across South America, the West Indies, Africa, Asia, Australia and on many islands across the Pacific and Indian Ocean (GRIIS, 2018; ISSG, 2018; USDA-ARS, 2018).

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: 03 Jul 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

AngolaPresentIntroducedInvasiveRejmánek et al. (2017); Witt and Luke (2017)
BurundiPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveBamps and Farron (1967); USDA-ARS (2018a)
CameroonPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveChukwuka (2003); USDA-ARS (2018a)
Central African RepublicPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)
ChadPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)
Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)
Congo, Republic of thePresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveBamps and Farron (1967)
Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)
EgyptPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveChukwuka (2003)
EritreaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveHedberg and Edwards (2014)
EswatiniPresentIntroducedInvasiveGRIIS (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
EthiopiaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveHedberg and Edwards (2014); USDA-ARS (2018a)
GuineaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)
KenyaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveTropical Biology Association (2010); BioNET-EAFRINET (2016)
MadagascarPresentIntroducedGRIIS (2018)
MalawiPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveChukwuka (2003); USDA-ARS (2018a)
MauritiusPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)
MayottePresentIntroducedInvasiveISSG (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
MozambiquePresentIntroducedInvasiveWitt and Luke (2017); USDA-ARS (2018); USDA-ARS (2018a)
NigeriaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveAkobundu and Agyakwa (1987); Borokini (2011)It is suggested that the plant gained entrance into Nigeria through Ogbomoso with imported seeds of Zea mays.
RéunionPresentIntroducedInvasiveISSG (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
RwandaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveBamps and Farron (1967); USDA-ARS (2018); USDA-ARS (2018a)
SeychellesPresentIntroducedGRIIS (2018)
South AfricaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveGermishuizen and Meyer (2003); Foxcroft et al. (2003)KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
TanzaniaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveTropical Biology Association (2010); BioNET-EAFRINET (2016)
-Zanzibar IslandPresent, WidespreadInvasiveWilliams (1949)
TogoPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a); USDA-ARS (2018)
UgandaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveTropical Biology Association (2010); BioNET-EAFRINET (2016)
ZambiaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveMuoghalu and Chuba (2005);
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)

Asia

BhutanPresentIntroducedGRIIS (2018)
ChinaPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee (2014)
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedInvasiveHuang et al. (2009); USDA-ARS (2018)
-YunnanPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveWang et al. (2004); Huang et al. (2009)Currently distributed in at least 64 counties in Yunnan Province. The whole extent of its geographic distribution is ca. 234,673 km 2 (about 60 % of Yunnan’s total territory).
IndiaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedBlake (1921)
-KarnatakaPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2018)
-KeralaPresentIntroducedInvasiveSankaran et al. (2012)
-MaharashtraPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2018)
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2018)
JapanPresentIntroducedGRIIS (2018)
LaosPresentIntroducedGRIIS (2018)
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)
MyanmarPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)
NepalPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)
PhilippinesPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveMerrill (1922); USDA-ARS (2018a)
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)
TaiwanPresentIntroducedInvasiveTaiwan Plant Names (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
ThailandPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a); USDA-ARS (2018)
VietnamPresentIntroducedInvasiveGRIIS (2018); Ngo Hong Chin and Khuc Thi Hue (2012)

Europe

SpainPresent, LocalizedIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018)Adventive in Canary Islands
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018a)Adventive

North America

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
BahamasPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
BarbadosPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
BelizePresent, WidespreadNativeInvasiveBalick (2000); USDA-ARS (2018a)
BermudaPresentIntroducedInvasiveISSG (2018)
British Virgin IslandsPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012); USDA-ARS (2018)Tortola
Costa RicaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2018a)
CubaPresentIntroducedInvasiveOviedo Prieto and González-Oliva (2015); USDA-ARS (2018)
DominicaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedInvasiveMir (2012)
El SalvadorPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2018a)
GrenadaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
GuatemalaPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasiveStandley and Steyermark (1946); USDA-ARS (2018a)
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
HondurasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2018a)
JamaicaPresentAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012); USDA-ARS (2018)Different sources report as native or as introduced
MartiniquePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
MexicoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2018); USDA-ARS (2018a)
MontserratPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroducedInvasiveBurg et al. (2012)listed as invasive in Saba
NicaraguaPresent, WidespreadNativeHaynes and Holm-Nielsen (2001); USDA-ARS (2018a)
PanamaPresent, WidespreadNativeWoodson and Schery (1980); USDA-ARS (2018a)
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroducedNaturalizedDavidse et al. (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)cultivated
United StatesPresent, LocalizedIntroducedUSDA-NRCS (2018)
-FloridaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveRadford (1980); USDA-NRCS (2018a)
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS (2018); Wagner et al. (1999)
-TexasPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2018a)

Oceania

AustraliaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveHnatiuk (1990); Queensland Government (2018)
-New South WalesPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveHnatiuk (1990); Queensland Government (2018)
-QueenslandPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveHnatiuk (1990); Queensland Government (2018)
Christmas IslandPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2018)
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
Federated States of Micronesia
-PohnpeiPresentIntroducedPIER (2018)
-YapPresentIntroducedPIER (2018)
FijiPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedInvasiveFlorence et al. (2013); USDA-ARS (2018)
GuamPresentIntroducedPIER (2018)
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedInvasiveISSG (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
NiuePresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER (2018)
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018); GRIIS (2018)
SamoaPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
TongaPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
VanuatuPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
Wallis and FutunaPresentIntroducedPIER (2018)

South America

BrazilPresentIntroducedInvasiveI3N-Brasil (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
-AmazonasPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-BahiaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-CearaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-GoiasPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-Mato GrossoPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-ParaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-ParaibaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-ParanaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-PernambucoPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-PiauiPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroducedInvasiveI3N-Brasil (2018)
-Rio Grande do NortePresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-RondoniaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroducedInvasiveI3N-Brasil (2018)
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedInvasiveI3N-Brasil (2018)
-SergipePresentIntroducedNaturalizedMagenta (2015)
ChilePresent, LocalizedIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018)
-Easter IslandPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)
ColombiaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedDavidse et al. (2018); USDA-ARS (2018)cultivated
EcuadorPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2018)
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasiveCharles Darwin Foundation (2018)
French GuianaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedDavidse et al. (2018)cultivated
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedDavidse et al. (2018)cultivated

History of Introduction and Spread

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Tithonia diversifolia was first recorded in China as an ornamental in 1936. It was first planted in Banna, a county in the Yunnan province (Wang et al., 2004). By the 1950s T. diversifolia was planted in villages and along the roadsides across the Yunnan Province. In the 1970s, farmers cultivated T. diversifolia as green manure but later with the emergence of chemical fertilizers, the cultivation of this species was abandoned. Since then, populations have expanded and it can now be found in 60% of Yunnan at altitudes from 70 m to 2000 m (Wang et al., 2004).

In West Africa, T. diversifolia was introduced with imported grains or as an ornamental (Muoghalu and Chuba, 2005). In Nigeria, T. diversifolia was apparently introduced as a contaminant with imported seeds of maize (Zea mays) (Akobundu and Agyakwa, 1987). In Kenya, it was first introduced as an ornamental plant in the 1940s and has now spread to western and central provinces, coastal regions and parts of the Rift Valley. In South Africa, it was introduced as ornamental and was first collected within the Kruger National Park in 1953 (Foxcroft et al., 2003). 

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Kenya Central America Ornamental purposes (pathway cause) Yes No
Nigeria Israel Late 1970's Seed trade (pathway cause) Yes No Akobundu and Agyakwa (1987); Lordbanju (1991) imported in maize seeds
Yunnan Mexico 1930's Yes No Wang et al. (2004)

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of new introductions of Tithonia diversifolia is very high. This species is widely commercialized as an ornamental and hedge plant. It is a prolific seed producer with small seeds that can be easily dispersed by wind, water and animals, facilitating expansion into new areas. There is also the risk of unintentional introductions as a contaminant in important crop or ornamental seeds (Muoghalu and Chuba, 2005; Queensland Government, 2018).

Habitat

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Tithonia diversifolia is a common weed of roadsides, wastelands, field edges, riverbanks, disturbed sites, forest edges, borders of orchards, groves and disturbed secondary forests at elevations ranging from near sea level to 2300 m. It is also cultivated as an ornamental and hedge plant in gardens from which it escapes and naturalizes in neglected suburban lots and nearby disturbed areas (Ng’inja et al., 1998; BioNET-EAFRINET, 2016; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2018; PIER, 2018; Queensland Government, 2018; Useful Tropical Plants, 2018). 

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Other
Soil Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial
 
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Principal habitat Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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Tithonia diversifolia is listed as a weed of rice (Oryza sativa), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and maize (Zea mays) plantations (Imeokpara and Okusanya, 1994). Extracts of T. diversifolia have been found to be toxic to several crop plants, including rice (O. sativa), maize (Z. mays), sorghum (S. bicolor), lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and cowpea (Vigna unguiculate) in laboratory experiments, suggesting allelopathic activity (Suzuki et al., 2017). 

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Oryza sativa (rice)PoaceaeMain
Sorghum bicolor (sorghum)PoaceaeMain
Zea mays (maize)PoaceaeMain

Growth Stages

Top of page Pre-emergence, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for Tithonia diversifolia is 2n = 34 (Goldblatt and Johnson, 2012).

Reproductive biology 

The reproductive biology of T. diversifolia is unknown. However, the closely related species T. tubaeformis and T. rotundifolia are species showing sporophytic incompatibility, and thus are obligate outcrossers (Muoghalu and Chuba, 2005López-Caamal et al., 2013 ). The flowers of T. diversifolia are visited by insects including butterflies and bees (Ponder et al., 2013). 

Physiology and phenology

In tropical regions, T. diversifolia produces flowers and fruits throughout the year. Mature plants can produce 80,000 to 160,000 seeds annually. In China, it has been recorded flowering from September to January. In Australia, flowering can occur in spring, but it is mainly observed during autumn and early winter (from April to June). In India, flowering activity has been recorded from September to May (Davidse et al., 2018; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2018; India Biodiversity Portal, 2018; Queensland Government, 2018). 

Environmental requirements

T. diversifolia prefers to grow where mean annual temperatures range from 15°C to 31°C but it can tolerate temperatures from 12°C to 38°C. It prefers environments with a mean annual rainfall in the range from 1000 mm to 2000 mm although it tolerates rainfall from 700 mm to 2500 mm. This species is adapted to grow in a wide range of soil types including sandy, loamy and clay soils with a pH range of 6.1-7.8 pH. This species prefers open and sunny areas and can tolerate moderate drought events (Orwa et al., 2009; Useful Tropical Plants, 2018).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
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) 12 38
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 15 31

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall7002500mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Tithonia diversifolia spreads by seed. This species produces a large amount of small seeds, which may be dispersed by wind, water and animals. Seeds may also be spread in dumped garden waste and through contaminated agricultural produce (Orwa et al., 2009; Queensland Government, 2018). 

Natural dispersal (non-biotic)

The pubescent seed with a pappus can be dispersed by wind and can also be carried over large areas by water currents. 

Intentional introduction

T. diversifolia has been intentionally moved over large distances by humans to be used as an ornamental and in agroforestry systems (BioNET-EAFRINET, 2016; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2018; PIER, 2018; Queensland Government, 2018).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop productionWeed Yes Yes ,
DisturbanceWeed, often naturalized in disturbed sites and roadsides Yes Yes Queensland Government, 2018
Escape from confinement or garden escapeSeeds in dumped garden waste Yes Yes Queensland Government, 2018
ForageUsed as forage and fodder Yes Roothaert and Paterson, 1997
Habitat restoration and improvementPlanted for soil improver and erosion control Yes Yes Ng'inja et al., 1998
Hedges and windbreaksOften planted as hedge plant Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
HitchhikerContaminant agricultural produce Yes Akobundu and Agyakwa, 1987
Horticulture Yes Yes Ng'inja et al., 1998
Medicinal use Yes Kuo and Chen, 1997
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes Palm et al., 1996
Seed tradeSeed widely commercialized - available online Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
MailSeed widely commercialized and available online Yes Yes
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesSeeds in garden waste Yes Queensland Government, 2018
WaterSeeds Yes Yes Orwa et al., 2009
WindSeeds Yes Yes Roothaert and Paterson, 1997

Impact Summary

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

Economic Impact

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Tithonia diversifolia is a weed of crop fields. It also invades grazing lands reducing the pasture or forage available for domestic animals (Queensland Government, 2018).

Environmental Impact

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Tithonia diversifolia is an aggressive weed that quickly invades disturbed sites, open grounds, forests edges, riverbanks and disturbed secondary forests. Once established, it forms dense stands that outcompete and displace native vegetation and alter natural regeneration (BioNET-EAFRINET, 2016; I3N-Brasil, 2018; PIER, 2018; Queensland Government, 2018). In areas invaded by T. divesifolia, native plant species growing beneath and near this species are negatively impacted by allelopathic substances (Suzuki et al., 2017). 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Loss of medicinal resources
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition (unspecified)
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Hybridization
  • 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

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Tithonia diversifolia is often cultivated as a garden ornamental and hedge plant (Orwa et al., 2009; Lusweti et al. 2011). This species is also used as green manure, soil improver and for erosion control in agroforestry systems and as a fodder crop for livestock such as goats and cattle (Jama et al., 2000; Olabode et al., 2007; Pathoummalangsy and Preston, 2008; Orwa et al., 2009; Nguyen et al., 2010). The leaves are used in traditional medicine for the treatment of constipation, stomach pains, liver pains, indigestion and sore throats and as an antiviral (Cos et al., 2002; Chiang et al., 2004; Tona et al., 1998; Goffin et al., 2002). 

T. diversifolia is known to contain sesquiterpene lactones and diterpenoids (Chagas-Paula et al., 2012), some of which have biological activities against insects such as termites. For this reason, it has been used as a natural insecticide (Adoyo et al., 1997; Mwine et al., 2011).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage

Environmental

  • Boundary, barrier or support
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Soil conservation
  • Soil improvement

Materials

  • Fertilizer
  • Green manure
  • Manure
  • Miscellaneous materials
  • Mulches
  • Pesticide

Ornamental

  • Christmas tree
  • Cut flower
  • garden plant
  • Potted plant
  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Tithonia diversifolia is similar to the closely related T. rotundifolia and to the common sunflower Helianthus annuus. These species can be distinguished by the following traits (Queensland Government, 2018):

Tithonia diversifolia has leaves with 3-7 pointed lobes. Its flower-heads have bright yellow centres and yellow 'petals (i.e. ray florets) 4-7 cm long.

Tithonia rotundifolia has leaves without lobes or with rounded lobes. Its flower-heads have bright yellow centres and orange or reddish 'petals' (i.e. ray florets) 2-3.5 cm long.

Helianthus annuus has leaves without lobes. Its flower-heads have orange-brown to dark brown centres and yellow 'petals' (i.e. ray florets) 2-3 cm long.

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.

Physical/mechanical control

Small infestations of T. diversifolia can be removed manually. Slashing can result in re-sprouting from uncut stumps (Lusweti et al., 2011).

Chemical control

Herbicides such as triclopyr, picloram, metsulfuron-methyl and 2,4-D are reportedly used to control T. diversifolia in Australia (Queensland Government, 2018).

References

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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.

Contributors

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12/08/18 Updated by: 

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

29/01/14 Original text by:

Aool Winnifred, National Agricultural Research Laboratories Kawanda, Kampala, Uganda

Opio Samuel Morris, National Crops Resource Research Institute, Kampala, Uganda

Distribution Maps

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