Caesalpinia decapetala (Mysore thorn)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Caesalpinia decapetala (Roth) Alston
Preferred Common Name
- Mysore thorn
Other Scientific Names
- Biancaea scandens Tod.
- Biancaea sepiaria (Roxb.) Tod.
- Bianceae decapetala (Roth) O. Deg.
- Caesalpinia benguetensis Elmer
- Caesalpinia decapetala var. japonica (Siebold & Zucc.) H. Ohashi
- Caesalpinia ferox Hassk.
- Caesalpinia japonica Siebold & Zucc.
- Caesalpinia sepiaria Roxb.
- Caesalpinia sepiaria var. japonica (Siebold & Zucc.) Gagnep.
- Caesalpinia sepiaria var. japonica (Siebold & Zucc.) Hand.-Mzt.
- Caesalpinia sepiaria var. japonica (Siebold & Zucc.) Makino
- Mezoneuron benguetense (Elmer) Elmer
- Reichardia decapetala Roth
International Common Names
- English: cat’s claws; cat's-claw; Mauritius-thorn; thorny poinciana; wait-a-bit; wait-a-while; woody wait-a-while
- Spanish: agarra ladrón; chembé bolé; chícara cimarrona; zarza de cercas
- French: brésillet du Japon; césalpinie du Japon
- Chinese: yun shi
Local Common Names
- Australia: Mauritius thorn; shoofly; tiger stopper; whoa back
- Germany: Cäsalpinie, Japanische; Mauritius-dorn
- Haiti: chembe bolo; ti-janvier; tijavier
- India/Indian Punjab: aila; chillari; gilo; karur; kurutu-gajjika; relan
- Indonesia: areuy matahiyang gunung
- Indonesia/Nusa Tenggara: secang lembut
- Italy: cesalpinia giapponese
- Japan: jaketsu-ibara
- Lesser Antilles: arrête-boeuf; caniroc
- Myanmar: sukyanbo
- South Africa: kraaldoring (Afrikaans); ubobo-encane (Zulu); ufenisi
- Thailand: kamchai
- Vietnam: vu'ôt hùm
- CAEJA (Caesalpinia japonica)
- CAESE (Caesalpinia sepiaria)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
C. decapetala is an adaptable, vigorous, scrambling, very prickly shrub, climber or tree with showy yellow flowers. C. decapetala is capable of swamping native vegetation, changing the composition of the flora and creating a barrier to the movement of people and animals. It has become invasive in several countries where it was introduced intentionally. It is a declared category 1 weed in South Africa where it is invasive in forest edges and clearings, in manged plantations and along roads and rivers/streams (Henderson, 2001). In Australia, it is classed as a noxious weed (category W2) in New South Wales, where legislation states that it must be completely controlled and destroyed, and is prohibited in Western Australia until a weed risk assessment has been completed.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Fabales
- Family: Fabaceae
- Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
- Genus: Caesalpinia
- Species: Caesalpinia decapetala
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The genus Caesalpinia has undergone much taxonomic change, with numerous synonymous genera having been described and/or postulated. It is a pantropical genus of trees, shrubs, woody scandent, and prickly climbers comprising approximately 157 species distributed throughout the world principally in tropical regions (ILDIS, 2014; Stevens, 2012). The leaves of all Caesalpinia are bipinnate, some very large with numerous leaflets, the flowers are in spikes from the upper leaf axils and may be quite showy, mostly in shades of red and yellow with separate petals and often conspicuous stamens. The seeds are in typical leguminous pods (Starr et al., 2003).
A variety of this species, var. japonica (Siebold & Zucc.) H. Ohashi has been described, based on the synonym Caesalpinia sepiaria Roxb. var. japonica (Siebold & Zucc.) Gagnep., but it is uncertain whether this is widely accepted.
DescriptionTop of page
C. decapetala is a robust and sprawling shrub or climber 0.5-10 m tall, with numerous straight to hooked thorns on the stems. Bipinnately compound leaves are dark green above, paler beneath, up to 30 cm long, with deciduous stipules 8-20 mm long. The leaf rachis is armed with downwardly hooked prickles. Each leaf consists of 3-15 pairs of pinnae, each pinna having 5-12 pairs of leaflets, elliptic-oblong to ovate, rounded at the apex, 10-22 mm long, 4-11 mm wide. Flowers are pale yellow, 25-30 mm diameter, borne in axillary and terminal racemes 10-40 cm long, petals 10-15 cm long and 8-15 mm wide. Fruits are dehiscent pods 6-11 cm long, 2-3 cm wide, containing 4-9 black ellipsoid, flattened, black seeds 8-12 mm long and 6-8 mm wide (Weber, 2003).
Plant TypeTop of page Broadleaved
Vine / climber
DistributionTop of page
C. decapetala is very widely distributed in South and East Asia, approximately from the equator to 40°N. This species grows naturally in tropical and temperate regions from the Himalayas to Sri Lanka, and the native range extends east to China, Korea and Japan. C. decapetala has been widely cultivated and is now naturalized in tropical and subtropical regions in Africa, Australia, the Caribbean and on several islands in the Pacific Ocean (see distribution table for details).
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.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Planted||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||Native||Planted, Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|-Anhui||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Fujian||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Gansu||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Guangdong||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Guangxi||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Guizhou||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Hainan||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Hebei||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Henan||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Hong Kong||Present||Native||ILDIS, 2014|
|-Hubei||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Hunan||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Jiangsu||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Jiangxi||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Shaanxi||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Sichuan||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Yunnan||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|-Zhejiang||Present||Native||Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014|
|East Timor||Present||Native||ILDIS, 2014|
|-Jammu and Kashmir||Present||Native||Natural|
|Indonesia||Present||Native||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002|
|Japan||Present||Native||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002|
|-Ryukyu Archipelago||Present||Native||ILDIS, 2014|
|Korea, DPR||Present||Native||Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|Korea, Republic of||Present||Native||Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|Sri Lanka||Present||Native||Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|Taiwan||Present||Native||Planted, Natural||ILDIS, 2002|
|Thailand||Present||Native||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002|
|Vietnam||Present||Native||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002|
|Burundi||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Witt and Luke, 2017|
|Congo Democratic Republic||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002|
|Ethiopia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Teketay, 1996; ILDIS, 2002; Witt and Luke, 2017|
|Kenya||Present||Introduced||BioNET-EAFRINET, The East African Network for Taxonomy; ILDIS, 2002|
|Malawi||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ILDIS, 2002; Witt and Luke, 2017|
|Mauritius||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002|
|Réunion||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002; ILDIS, 2014|
|Rodriguez Island||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2014||Naturalized|
|Rwanda||Present||Introduced||Invasive||ILDIS, 2002; Witt and Luke, 2017|
|Sierra Leone||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002|
|South Africa||Widespread||Introduced||1904-1908||Invasive||Cronk & Fuller, 1995; Wells et al., 1986; Henderson, 2001; ILDIS, 2002|
|-Canary Islands||Present||Introduced||DAISIE, 2014||Casual alien|
|Tanzania||Present||Introduced||BioNET-EAFRINET, The East African Network for Taxonomy; ILDIS, 2002|
|Uganda||Present||Introduced||BioNET-EAFRINET, The East African Network for Taxonomy; ILDIS, 2002|
|Zimbabwe||Present||Introduced||Buss, 2002; ILDIS, 2002|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Hawaii||Present||Introduced||Invasive||PIER, 2002; Weber, 2003; USDA-NRCS, 2004; ILDIS, 2014|
Central America and Caribbean
|Barbados||Present||Introduced||Broome et al., 2007||Naturalized|
|Cuba||Present||Introduced||Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012|
|Dominica||Present||Introduced||Broome et al., 2007||Naturalized|
|Dominican Republic||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012|
|Guadeloupe||Present||Introduced||Broome et al., 2007||Naturalized|
|Haiti||Present||Introduced||Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012|
|Jamaica||Present||Introduced||Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012|
|Martinique||Present||Introduced||Broome et al., 2007||Naturalized|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Introduced||USDA-NRCS, 2004; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012|
|Saint Lucia||Present||Introduced||Broome et al., 2007||Naturalized|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Present||Introduced||Broome et al., 2007||Naturalized|
|Peru||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2014||Casual alien|
|Spain||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Australia||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002; Weber, 2003; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011|
|-Australian Northern Territory||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced||Invasive||NWSEC, 2002; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011|
|-Queensland||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011|
|-Western Australia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011|
|Fiji||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002; PIER, 2014|
|French Polynesia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||PIER, 2014|
|New Caledonia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||PIER, 2014|
|New Zealand||Present||Introduced||1965||Invasive||Weber, 2003|
|-Kermadec Islands||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Cronk & Fuller, 1995; ILDIS, 2002|
|Norfolk Island||Present||Introduced||ILDIS, 2002; PIER, 2002; PIER, 2014|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
C. decapetala was introduced around the world as an ornamental, hedge and erosion control species, and has been reported to tend towards weediness in some situations such as in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands. It is known to have been introduced to New Zealand in 1965 and has subsequently become invasive (Haley, 2003). ). In Hawaii, C. decapetala was first recorded in 1888 (Starr et al., 2003). In The West Indies, C. decapelata was first recorded in Puerto Rico in 1900 (US National Herbarium). In South Africa C. decapetala was introduced around 1904, and by 1961 it is reported as invasive in the Kruger National Park (Foxcroft et al., 2007).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page The vigorous growth of this species and its history of invasion in countries such as South Africa, New Zealand and Australia suggest that the introduction of this species to other regions carries a risk of invasion. Bingelli (1999) classed this species as highly invasive. Due to the perceived risk, some recent reports (e.g. in Botswana, Buss, 2002) have suggested that the use of this species should be avoided without further evaluation of the risks in different locations.
HabitatTop of page
Weber (2003) reports that C. decapetala is typically associated with woodland and grassland in its native range. In exotic locations it occurs in riparian habitats, in grassland and on forest edges or clearings (Weber, 2003). In South Africa, Wildy (2001) links invasion with high rainfall areas along disturbed woodland edges, and degraded or overgrazed veld, watercourses and indigenous forests. Geldenhuys et al. (1986) names it as a problem in both plantations and natural forests in South Africa. C. decapetala is naturalized in Hawaii and found along roads, around derelict buildings and on other disturbed ground (PIER, 2002).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The chromosome number reported for C. decapetala varies from 2n = 22 to 2n = 24 (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014).
C. decapetala produces large numbers of yellow flowers which are visited by insects including bees, butterflies and ants. In Hawaii, C. decapetala is visited by Xylocopa sonorina, Lampides boeticus, Apis mellifera and Technomyrmex albipes (Starr et al., 2003).
Physiology and Phenology
In Australia, flowering occurs mostly during winter and spring (i.e. from June to November). In Hawaii, plants produce flowers during the winter and spring (Starr et al., 2003) and in Puerto Rico the species flowers and fruits from September to June (Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2005).
C. decapetala regenerates from seed. These seeds may be eaten and dispersed by birds, small mammals, and cattle and they may also be transported abiotically by water. The branches may root where they touch the ground and the plant resprouts vigorously when cut (Wildy, 2001). C. decapetala does not fix nitrogen (Weber, 2003).
C. decapetala prefers sub-humid to humid conditions, though will also tolerate drier environments and up to a six month dry season, with annual rainfall in the range 300-3000 mm. It tolerates a range of soils including shallow soils, and is found at altitudes from sea level up to 1700 m altitude.
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||0||6||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||300||3000||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page Bimodal
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
There is limited information available on the natural enemies of C. decapetala, although Henderson (2001) reports that biocontrol has been attempted in South Africa, where seed feeders have been released.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
C. decapetala seeds may be dispersed by water, birds, small mammals and livestock, notably cattle in South Africa (Dean et al., 1986; Weber, 2003). The species has been widely introduced to form a security barrier against people or wild animals, and is also regarded as a striking ornamental. For these and other reasons it has been widely introduced by man outside its native range and has subsequently become invasive in several tropical countries.
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
Economic ImpactTop of page
C. decapetala is one of a number of species that can impede forestry operations in managed plantations, and constitute a fire hazard (Geldenhuys et al., 1986).
It is extremely thorny and aggressive. It climbs on vegetation, has a smothering habit, and makes walking impossible. In Hawaii, C. decapetala presents a huge problem for ranches and has the capability to take over large areas of land, which may make pasture unavailable to grazing animals and restrict movement through forests. In addition, C. decapetala can engulf native forest and water delivery systems (Starr et al., 2003).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
C. decapetala is regarded as a 'transformer' species in South Africa, Australia, and Hawaii for its ability to alter the environmental conditions of areas it has invaded. It is able to climb over and outcompete other vegetation, so changing the composition of the vegetative assemblage. C. decapetala can form dense thickets, and when it climbs over indigenous species its weight in the canopy may cause the physical collapse of the tree it grows over (Geldenhuys et al., 1986). In Australia, C. decapetala is listed as an environmental weed of subtropical rainforest and remnant and can engulf fences, sheds, bridges and other infrastructure. It is difficult and dangerous to remove due to its covering of sharp recurved thorns. Its dense thickets can restrict water flows and modify waterways (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). In South Africa, this species invades riverine habitats, forest margins, and savannas, shading out native vegetation and causing the collapse of adult trees.
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Nototrichium humile (kaala rockwort)||EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered species||Hawaii||Competition - monopolizing resources||National Tropical Botanical Garden, 2007; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008|
Social ImpactTop of page The thorns are sharp and can cause injury. The species can be a barrier inhibiting the movement of people and animals (Wildy, 2001).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Produces spines, thorns or burrs
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
C. decapetala forms dense thickets and hedges useful for pasture demarcation and boundaries, and it is also used as a shade tree. The bark has tanning properties, while the seeds are locally important for medicinal uses including anthelminthic, antipyretic, analgesic and possibly contraceptive properties. This species is also used to treat dysentery, malaria and neuraligia. In South Africa, where it has become invasive, it is used for security hedging (because of the thorns) and as an ornamental (Henderson, 2001). It has been introduced and used in forestry in Botswana, but owing to its invasiveness in nearby South Africa, it has been recommended that production of this species should stop in Botswana until the risk has been evaluated (Buss, 2002).
Uses ListTop of page
- Boundary, barrier or support
- Soil improvement
- Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Geldenhuys et al. (1986) report that confusion between C. decapetala and indigenous South African species which has led to some invasions of this species in going undetected.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Weber (2003) reports that mechanical control is problematic due to the sharp thorns. However, seedlings and saplings may be dug up or pulled up manually (Wildy, 2001), as rootstocks will coppice if roots are not removed.
According to Weber (2003), herbicides may be sprayed onto the leaves. Wildy (2001) describes foliar and stalk immersion approaches. PIER (2002) cite other information on the use of foliar applications of glyphosate and triclopyr, and soil applications of tebuthiuron. The herbicide treatment has to be repeated intervals to gradually reduce coverage and gain control of the plant as ensuring that the spray contacts sufficient parts of the plant is difficult when the plant has established large thickets.
Henderson (2001) reports that biocontrol has been attempted in South Africa where seed feeders have been released. A species that has recently been released as a biological control agent is the bruchid beetle Sulcobruchus subsuturalis (Coetzer, 2000). A further species under evaluation is the leafmining moth Acrocercops hyphantica (Anon, 2002).
Wildy (2001) recommends that mechanical and chemical methods of control are used in combination. Due to the fact that cut plants are likely to coppice, Wildy (2001) recommends removing the entire rootstock or using herbicide after cutting operations. PIER (2002) note that it is the subject of an eradication programme on Raoul (Kermadec Islands).
ReferencesTop of page
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Buss CM, 2002. The potential threat of invasive tree species in Botswana. Department of Crop Production and Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Botswana, 40 pp
Coetzer W, 2000. Oviposition preference of Sulcobruchus subsuturalis (Pic) (Coleoptera: Bruchidae), an introduced natural enemy of Caesalpinia decapetala (Roth) Alston (Caesalpiniaceae) in South Africa. African Entomology, 8(2):293-297; 16 ref
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Richards PVM, Lindert HJA van, Borland TM, Thomas PEL, 1978. Co-operative work. Rhodesia, Agronomy Institute, Weed Research Team: Annual report 1975-77. Department of Research and Specialist Services. Salisbury Rhodesia, 41-43
Starr F, Starr K, Loope LL, 2003. Caesalpinia decapetala. Plants of Hawaii. Hawaii, USA: US Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Haleakala Field Station. http://www.hear.org/pier/pdf/pohreports/caesalpinia_decapetala.pdf
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USDA-NRCS, 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5. Baton Rouge, USA: National Plant Data Center. http://plants.usda.gov
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Wildy E, 2001. Alien invader plants. Caesalpinia decapetala. Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA). http://www.geocities.com/wessaaliens/species/mthorn.htm
Witt, A., Luke, Q., 2017. Guide to the naturalized and invasive plants of Eastern Africa, [ed. by Witt, A., Luke, Q.]. Wallingford, UK: CABI.vi + 601 pp. http://www.cabi.org/cabebooks/ebook/20173158959 doi:10.1079/9781786392145.0000
ContributorsTop of page
20/05/14 Updated by:
Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA
Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA
Distribution MapsTop of page
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