Buddleja davidii (butterfly bush)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Buddleja davidii Franchet, 1887
Preferred Common Name
- butterfly bush
Other Scientific Names
- Buddleia davidii Franchet
- Buddleja variabilis Hemsley, 1889
International Common Names
- English: orange-eye butterfly bush; summer lilac
- French: buddleia de David
Local Common Names
- Austria: Schmetterlingsstrauch; Sommerflieder
- Germany: Schmetterlingsstrauch; Sommerflieder; Spitzaehriger Schmetterlingsstrauch
- Italy: albero delle farfalle
- Japan: chichibu-fujiutsugi; fusa-fujiutsugi
- Switzerland: Schmetterlingsstrauch; Sommerflieder
- BUDDA (Buddleia davidii)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
B. davidii is a multi-stemmed shrub or small-tree that is native to China and has been introduced as an ornamental world-wide, first to Europe (1890s) and then later to the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and some parts of Africa. Since that time, B. davidii has naturalized within sub-oceanic climates in the temperate and sub-Mediterranean zones.
The full potential of this species has yet to be realized; however, it is already considered problematic (i.e. out-competing native, agricultural, and forestry species) in northwestern and northeastern USA and Canada, throughout New Zealand, and in central Europe. B. davidii is tolerant of a broad range of environmental conditions, capable of prolific seed production, grows rapidly, and has a short juvenile period. Due to its popularity, nurseries continue to distribute plants capable of setting seed. Garden residents as well as escapees serve as satellites, which then spread the species on to disturbed and wild lands and this is a cause for concern.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Gentianales
- Family: Loganiaceae
- Genus: Buddleja
- Species: Buddleja davidii
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The genus Buddleja was originally ascribed to the family Scrophulariaceae (Jussieu, 1789; Bartling, 1830; Lindley, 1846) and later reclassified to Loganiaceae (Bentham, 1857; Bentham and Hooker, 1876). Wagenitz (1959), Leenhouts (1963), Leeuwenberg (1979) and Leeuwenberg and Leenhouts (1980) continued to treat Buddleja and its allies as a tribe of Loganiaceae even though Wilhem (1910) ranked Buddlejaceae next to the Loganiaceae. Eventually, Engler (1964) placed the Buddlejaceae near the Scrophulariaceae.
DescriptionTop of page
B. davidii is a shrub or small multi-stemmed tree that has a great degree of morphological and physiological plasticity (Miller, 1984; Shi et al., 2006). Descriptions of B. davidii may vary slightly depending on the environment (Tallent-Halsell and Watt, 2009). B. davidii is semi-deciduous: leaves are shed in the autumn and immediately replaced with a set of new, smaller leaves that persist until the following spring (Miller, 1984; Tallent-Halsell, 2008). In general, stems are four-angled. Sub-orbicular to ovate stipules are present and range in length from 1-6 mm (Leeuwenberg, 1979; Webb et al., 1988; Wu and Raven, 1996). Leaves are opposite, usually ovate and shortly petiolate. The upper surface of leaves is dark-green and glabrous or free of hairs, whereas the lower surface is white-tomentose (Binggeli, 1998) with stellate and glanduliferous hairs (Leeuwenberg, 1979; Webb et al., 1988; Wu and Raven, 1996). Leaves range from 5-20 cm long and 1-7 cm wide (Wu and Raven, 1996). Leaf margins are finely toothed (Leeuwenberg, 1979).
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
B. davidii is native to central and southwestern China at elevations up to 3500 m, occurring naturally in the following Provinces: Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Xizang, Yunnan and Zhejiang (Wu and Raven, 1996). The species can be found both on mountainous slopes and in lowlands.
Distribution TableTop of page
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: 12 May 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present|
|Slovakia||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1911. First reported in wild: 1942|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-British Columbia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||In BC, infestations occur on southeastern Vancouver Island, in Greater Vancouver and on the Sunshine Coast|
|United States||Present||Invasive||B. davidii continues to be sold in nurseries throughout the USA. Presence in gardens does not indicate that it has naturalized|
|-Florida||Present, Only in captivity/cultivation||Introduced|
|-Georgia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Georgia Institute of Technology is considering B. davidii as potential feedstock for biofuel production (Hallac et al., 2009)|
|-New York||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Spreading in Lower Hudson Valley, NY|
|-Oregon||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Invasive in floodplains in coastal areas|
|-Pennsylvania||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Naturalised abandoned limestone quarries|
|-Washington||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Invasive in floodplains in coastal areas|
|-New South Wales||Present|
|New Zealand||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||Introduced||Invasive|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
In 1869, Father David sent specimens of B. davidii to Franchet (Franchet, 1884, 1888). Specimens of the same species from I’ch’ang Province, China were collected by Henry and named by William Botting Hemsley in 1887 (Anon., 1925). Unaware of Franchet’s description, Hemsley called the plant Buddleja variabilis Hemsley (Hemsley, 1889). The name was eventually reversed 25 years later, due to the discovery of Franchet’s original description. However, B. variabilis is still listed as a synonym of B. davidii.
B.davidii seeds were first introduced to Europe from Russia by traders (Bean, 1970); however, these seeds produced an inferior form (Bean, 1970; Coats and Creech, 1992). Hemsley (1889) reported that seeds from Pa-tung (Hubei Province, China) were sent to England ca. 1889, but these did not produce flowering plants. Seeds from Tatsienlu, China that were introduced to Louis DeVilmorin of France in 1893 by Jean André Soulié (Herberman, 1919) produced superior plants that were considered suitable for horticulture (Cox, 1986). In 1896, seeds from these Tatsienlu specimens were sent to Kew Gardens, UK (Coats and Creech, 1992).
Further collections of B. davidii seeds were sent from Mt. O’mei Shan, China in 1896 by Father Paul Guillaume Farges (PlantExplorers, 2009) and in the following year by Henry from I-ch’ang, China. Between 1907 and 1910, Wilson collected seeds in the Hubei and Sichuan Provinces, China from which the common garden-variety B. davidii descended (Rehder, 1927; Bean, 1970).
B. davidii naturalized on a significant scale in the 1940s in parts of Europe, after the destruction of cities during World War II. Bombed sites and building rubble were suitable colonization habitats and therefore dense B. davidii thickets established on these sites (Kreh, 1952; Kunick, 1970; Owen and Whiteway, 1980; Miller, 1984; Coats and Creech, 1992; Tallent-Halsell and Watt, 2009). In the 1950s and 1960s, B. davidii became a popular garden shrub, which further contributed to its spread when it escaped from cultivation and naturalized in the wild (Owen and Whiteway, 1980; Miller, 1984; Tallent-Halsell, 2008).
In the UK, B. davidii is recognized as the most common and widely distributed naturalized non-indigenous plant species (Webb, 1985; Thompson et al., 2005), primarily in disturbed areas (Anisko and Im, 2001; Stokes et al., 2004; Doughty, 2007).
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|France||Sichuan||1893||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Bean (1970); Lauener (1996)||Seed collection, probably source of seeds that have been sent to Kew Gardens|
|UK||Hubei||1887||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Hemsley (1889); Lauener (1996)|
|UK||Hubei||1889||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Hemsley (1889)||Seed collection|
|UK||Hubei||1897||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Bean (1970)||Seed collection|
|UK||Hubei||1900-1908||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Seed collection|
|UK||Sichuan||1900-1908||Horticulture (pathway cause)||Bean (1970)||Seed collection|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
B. davidii has the potential for further expansion (Kriticos et al., 2007; Ebeling et al., 2008b; DJ Kriticos, CSIRO Entomology, Australia, personal communication, 2009). Areas most at risk include Eastern Europe, South Africa, Western Australia and South America. It is most likely that further distribution will be attributed to the horticultural industry. Several of the known cultivars of B. davidii show invasive potential (Anisko and Im, 2001; Moller, 2003; Ream, 2006). Rapid maturation, millions of wind-dispersed seeds and a high rate of germination will positively contribute to range expansion.
B. davidii can spread along rail tracks where seeds are either carried on the locomotives or blown and drawn along in the slipstream of trains (Miller, 1984; Tallent-Halsell and Watt, 2009). Abandoned railway lines, where weeds are not controlled, expedite the spread of B. davidii when they grow into productive thickets in the railway corridors. Automobiles have been found to physically disperse B. davidii seeds (von der Lippe and Kowarik, 2007). Germinants have been observed in the mud stuck to machinery, especially that of gravel mines in floodplains (N Tallent-Halsell, Southwest Ecosystem Services, Las Vegas, USA, personal communication, 2009). Furthermore, B. davidii can spread along sea coasts, floodplains and riparian corridors, limestone quarries, and road and forest edges (Tallent-Halsell and Watt, 2009).
HabitatTop of page
In the native and introduced ranges, B. davidii occurs as an opportunist that establishes in natural and disturbed areas and is able to tolerate a wide range of physical conditions (e.g. Wilson, 1913; Williams, 1979; Miller, 1984; Smale, 1990; Reinhart et al., 2003; Bellingham et al., 2005; Godefroid et al., 2007; Tallent-Halsell, 2008; Tallent-Halsell and Watt, 2009). In both its native and introduced range, B. davidii establishes on naturally or humanly disturbed areas such as walls and rock faces (e.g. Wilson, 1913; Rishbeth, 1949; Segal, 1969; Owen and Whiteway, 1980; Miller, 1984), riparian corridors (Reichard, 1996; Bellingham et al., 2005; Tallent-Halsell, 2008) and quarries, urban waste grounds, abandoned cultivated areas, clearcut forests, and along transport corridors (Godefroid et al., 2007).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Secondary/tolerated habitat|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Principal habitat|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Principal habitat|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Principal habitat|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Secondary/tolerated habitat|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Principal habitat|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Naturalized B. davidii is considered to out-compete native, agricultural, and forestry taxa. It competes with the plantation species Pinus radiata (Richardson et al., 1996) in New Zealand for light (i.e. the thick stands of B. davidii impede germination and growth of seedling and saplings). Ream (2006) and Leach (2007) reported the replacement of riparian native Salix ssp. and Populus spp. by B. davidii in Oregon and Washington, USA. Although B. davidii colonizes disturbed sites, whether it alters successional trajectories over the long term is yet undetermined (Tallent-Halsell, 2008).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Growth StagesTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
ClimateTop of page
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Tolerated||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
B. davidii leaves are palatable to cattle and goats, but apparently not to deer (Gillman, 1998). Additionally, leaves appear to be palatable to polyphagous insects such as slugs, snails and aphids, but also to the glasshouse whitefly [Trialeurodes vaporariorum] and red spider mite [Tetranychus urticae] (Miller, 1984; Gillman, 1998). Specialized insects feeding on B. davidii have been identified: the weevils, Gymnaetron tetrum, Cleopus japonicus, and Mecysolobus erro; a dipteran leaf miner (Amauromyza verbasci) and a leaf bug (Campylomma verbasci) (Tallent-Halsell and Watt, 2009).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Botanical gardens and zoos||Yes||Yes|
|Breeding and propagation||Yes||Yes|
|Escape from confinement or garden escape||Yes|
|Flooding and other natural disasters||Yes||Yes|
|Garden waste disposal||Yes|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|True seeds (inc. grain)|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Economic/livelihood||Positive and negative|
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
Economic ImpactTop of page
The negative impact of naturalized B. davidii is competition with plantation pine species. The species has had a substantial and detrimental impact on the growth of plantation species by restricting light availability in a number of countries, including New Zealand (Richardson et al., 1996). In Europe, transportation routes have been negatively effected (Reinhardt et al., 2003), but there is no analysis of the costs caused by the negative economic impact of B. davidii.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Highly mobile locally
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Long lived
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Reproduces asexually
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Infrastructure damage
- Monoculture formation
- Negatively impacts forestry
- Transportation disruption
- Competition - shading
- Competition (unspecified)
- Rapid growth
- 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
UsesTop of page
Uses ListTop of page
- Landscape improvement
- Botanical garden/zoo
- Potted plant
Prevention and ControlTop of page
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.
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
Although B. davidii colonizes disturbed sites, the impact of long-term establishment is yet undetermined. In New Zealand, it has been observed that in the absence of disturbance, native and non-native trees can overtop B. davidii stands (Bellingham et al., 2005; Tallent-Halsell, 2008). Further research is needed to determine the long-term effect that B. davidii might have on the successional trajectories of native taxa.
ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
21/07/09 Original text by:
Susan Ebeling, UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Community Ecology, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, 06120 Halle, Germany
Nita Tallent-Halsell, Southwest Ecosystem Services, USEPA/ORD/NERL Landscape Ecology Branch, Environmental Sciences Division, 944 E. Harmon Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89119, USA
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CABI Summary Records
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