Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Nicotiana plumbaginifolia
(Tex-Mex tobacco)



Nicotiana plumbaginifolia (Tex-Mex tobacco)


  • Last modified
  • 03 January 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Nicotiana plumbaginifolia
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Tex-Mex tobacco
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Nicotiana plumbaginifolia is an annual herb native to Mexico, South America and parts of the Caribbean, and one of the most widespread species of the genus Nicotiana. It is reported as invasive in Cuba...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Nicotiana plumbaginifolia Viv.

Preferred Common Name

  • Tex-Mex tobacco

Other Scientific Names

  • Nicotiana crispa Cav.
  • Nicotiana minor Sessé & Moc.
  • Nicotiana plantaginea DC. ex Dunal
  • Nicotiana tenella Cav.

International Common Names

  • English: curl-leaved tobacco; wild tobacco
  • French: tabac a feuilles de plumbago
  • Arabic: dokhan brey

Local Common Names

  • Cuba: tabaco cimarrón
  • India: ban tamaku; ban tambakoo; jangli tambakoo

Summary of Invasiveness

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Nicotiana plumbaginifolia is an annual herb native to Mexico, South America and parts of the Caribbean, and one of the most widespread species of the genus Nicotiana. It is reported as invasive in Cuba and naturalized in parts of Asia, the Middle East and the USA. The species is considered a weed of humid wastelands and cultivated fields.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Solanales
  •                         Family: Solanaceae
  •                             Genus: Nicotiana
  •                                 Species: Nicotiana plumbaginifolia

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Solanaceae family includes some genera of medicinal and agronomical importance. The genus Nicotiana is named after Jean Nicot, who brought tobacco seeds to France in the sixteenth century (Knapp et al., 2004). Species from the genus Nicotiana are primarily native to the Neotropics and Australia (Chase et al., 2003). N. plumbaginifolia belongs to the section Alatae, which is considered a monophyletic group (Kaczorowski et al., 2005). The species epithet ‘plumbaginifolia’ comes from the way in which the leaves resemble those of species in the genus Plumbago (Encyclopedia of Life, 2017). According to The Plant List (2013), N. cavanillesii and N. pusilla are no longer accepted synonyms of N. plumbaginifolia.


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The following description is from the Flora of Pakistan (2017):

An erect viscid-pubescent plant up to 1 m tall, branched. Leaves radical and cauline, sessile, 9-28 x 3.5-9.5 cm, elliptic-oblong or oblanceolate, entire or ± wavy, cuneate to decurrent. Panicles up to 15 cm long, lax. Pedicel up to 10 mm long, glandular-pubescent. Calyx 7-9 mm long, nervose; lobes linear-lanceolate. Corolla pink, tube 3.5-4.0 cm long, limb 10 mm broad; lobes 5, acute. Anthers shorter than filaments, ± oblong; filaments ± 20 mm long. Ovary ± 2.5 mm long. Capsule 8-10 mm long, ovoid, ± included in the persistent calyx. Seeds less than 1 mm long, subglobose to angular, minutely rugose-reticulate, brown.

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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N. plumbaginifolia is native to Mexico, South America and parts of the Caribbean (Encyclopedia of Life, 2017). Although it is reported as native to Cuba by Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012), Oviedo Prieto et al. (2012) list it as naturalized and invasive. It is also included in a list of invasive species in India and described as an “aggressive colonizer” (Sudhakar Reddy et al., 2008), although no information is provided about its impact. The species is present in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, Central America, the Caribbean and South America (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; India Biodiversity Portal, 2016; Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017; Natural History Museum, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


IndiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Sudhakar Reddy et al., 2008An aggressive colonizer
-AssamPresentIntroducedEflora of India, 2017Naturalized
-DelhiPresentIntroducedEflora of India, 2017Naturalized
-GujaratPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2016
-Madhya PradeshPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2016
-MaharashtraPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2016
-ManipurPresentIntroducedSingh et al., 2014Also cultivated
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal, 2016
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedSrivastava et al., 2014Naturalized
-West BengalPresentIntroducedEflora of India, 2017Naturalized
NepalPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Natural History Museum, 2017
PakistanPresentIntroducedFlora of Pakistan, 2017
TaiwanPresentIntroduced2007Wu et al., 2010Naturalized
United Arab EmiratesPresentIntroduced2003Gairola et al., 2016Naturalized


EgyptPresentIntroducedEncyclopedia of Life, 2017Nile region. Naturalized

North America

MexicoPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017Chiapas, Guanajuato, Jalisco, México, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2017Naturalized
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-MarylandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-TexasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017

Central America and Caribbean

CubaPresentNativeAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012Recorded as native and introduced in the country
GuatemalaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017Escuintla, Guatemala, Izabal, Jalapa, Quiché, Sacatepéquez
HondurasPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017Lempira
JamaicaPresentNativeAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Trinidad and TobagoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017Trinidad

South America

ArgentinaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017Chaco, Entre Ríos, Formosa, Jujuy, Salta
BoliviaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017Beni, Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz, Tarija
BrazilPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017
-Sao PauloPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017
EcuadorPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2017Guayas, Manabí
ParaguayPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017Alto Paraguay
PeruPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017Junín, San Martín


UKPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Natural History Museum, 2017


AustraliaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Council Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2017

History of Introduction and Spread

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In places where N. plumbaginifolia has become naturalized, there are few details about its introduction or spread. However, the species has been present in the United Arab Emirates since 2003 and in Taiwan since 2007 (Wu et al., 2010; Gairola et al., 2016). Although there are reports of the species occurring in Australia since the 1960s, these only refer to cultivated material (Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2017). The species is also reported to be in cultivation in two locations in the UK, a university greenhouse and a botanical garden (Natural History Museum, 2017). It is possible that the species is also cultivated in other locations because cultivated material tends to be underrepresented in collections.

Risk of Introduction

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There is a lack of information on the distribution of N. plumbaginifolia and its environmental requirements, so it is not possible to properly assess the species’ risk of introduction or its distribution limits. The fact that the species is used as a model species for molecular, genetic and plant physiology studies could lead to its spread, if it were to escape from sites where it is cultivated for scientific purposes (Knapp and Clarkson, 2004).


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N. plumbaginifolia occurs on wastelands near water and is also found along river banks, railway tracks, roadsides and in cultivated fields (Sudhakar Reddy et al., 2008; Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; Flora of Pakistan, 2017).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalScrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number reported for N. plumbaginifolia is n = 10 (Kaczorowski et al., 2005). The species is a wild relative of, and genetic resource for, tobacco (USDA-ARS, 2017). Germplasm collections are stored at the USA’s Agricultural Research Station facilities (USDA-ARS, 2017). DNA barcode information for the species is available at the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS, 2017).

Reproductive Biology

N. plumbaginifolia reproduces by seed (Encyclopedia of Life, 2017). Although there are reports that this species is pollinated by hawkmoths, most seeds are produced through self-pollination (Kaczorowski et al., 2005; Figueroa-Castro and Holtsford, 2010). One plant can produce up to 100 capsules, with about 800-1000 seeds per capsule (Gairola et al., 2016).

Physiology and Phenology

N. plumbaginifolia flowers sporadically from March to November (Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; Flora of Pakistan, 2017). Anthesis is nocturnal, with flowers opening at dusk and remaining open for two nights (Kaczorowski et al., 2005). The seeds have a strong primary dormancy, requiring approximately a year of “afterripening” to be able to germinate (Grappin et al., 2000). Frey et al. (1999) reported that seeds stored for one year at 8°C yielded up to 100% germination. The removal of flowers and fruits delays plant senescence (Gupta and Chatterjee, 1971).

Environmental Requirements

There is no readily available information about the environmental requirements of N. plumbaginifolia. The species is reported to occur in the United Arab Emirates in areas where temperatures reach 45°C. However, in these areas, it grows in planters or cultivated fields that are well irrigated (Gairola et al., 2016). Considering its geographical distribution, its mean temperature limits are likely to be between 18°C and 35°C.


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
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])
BS - Steppe climate Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
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 Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
29 43

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 0
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 18 35


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall4301500mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

Seeds of N. plumbaginifolia are likely to be dispersed in a similar way to those of the related species, N. tabacum. The latter has very small seeds that can be transported through water or through movement on soil, clothes, footwear, vehicles or agricultural machinery.

Intentional Introduction

The species is available for purchase for use in research (Knapp and Clarkson, 2004).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
DisturbanceReported on waste land Yes Flora of Pakistan, 2017
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes Sudhakar Reddy et al., 2008
Garden waste disposalSeeds might be dispersed in garden soil Yes
HitchhikerMight be dispersed unintentionally due to small seed size Yes Yes
Medicinal useUsed in ethnobotany in India Yes Rothe, 2011; Singh et al., 2014
Off-site preservation Preserved at USDA-ARS facilities Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2017
ResearchA model species for plant physiology, genetics, plant genetic transformation and transgenic research Yes Yes Knapp and Clarkson, 2004

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
GermplasmGermplasm preserved at USDA-ARS facilities Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2017
Soil, sand and gravel Yes
Machinery and equipment Yes
Water Yes Yes

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Positive
Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Positive

Environmental Impact

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N. plumbaginifolia is reported as an agricultural weed (HEAR, 2017).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant


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Economic Value

N. plumbaginifolia genomic and cDNA libraries are sold for research purposes (Knapp and Clarkson, 2004). The species is also resistant to Phytophthora nicotianae, a fungus that causes the highly damaging disease ‘black shank’ in tobacco, making it a desirable species in the production of plant-made pharmaceuticals (Li et al., 2006).

Social Benefit

N. plumbaginifolia is widely used as a model organism for research on plant physiology, genetics and molecular studies (Knight et al., 1992; Hérouart et al., 1994; Pinto et al., 1995; Farnsworth, 2000; Majira et al., 2002; Knapp and Clarkson, 2004; Smigocki and Wilson, 2004, Lurquin and Kleinhofs, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2017). Its widespread use is due to its short life cycle, fast growth in culture, regeneration ability, suitability for protoplast culture, low chromosome number, haploid genome and the fact that genetic map information is available for this species (Vasil et al., 1982; Lurquin and Kleinhofs, 2012).

In India, this species is used to remove leeches from the body (Teron and Borthakur, 2013). Other medicinal uses include the treatment of haemorrhoids, snake bites and wounds (Rothe, 2011; Singh et al., 2014). It is reported to have antibacterial properties (Singh et al., 2010) and is also used to treat animal wounds (Medicinal Plants, 2017).

Environmental Services

Extracts from N. plumbaginifolia can inhibit the toxin production of the fungus Aspergillus flavus, which is known to infect cereal grains, legumes and tree nuts (FAO, 2017). It is reported to be an insecticide (Rothe, 2011) and it also has the potential to be used in bioremediation of soils polluted with cadmium (Doroszewska and Berbec, 2004).

Uses List

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  • Soil improvement


  • Research model

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore
  • Veterinary

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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N. plumbaginifolia is easily differentiated from other Nicotiana species by its whitish flowers and long corolla tubes. In contrast, the flowers of N. tabacum have rosy-white corollas.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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The vast majority of information available about this species relates to its use as a model plant for scientific research. More detailed information is required about its environmental requirements, risk of introduction and potential economic, social and environmental impacts.


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Acevedo-Rodríguez P, Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the seed plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1192 pp. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution.

BOLDS, 2017. The Barcode of Life Data Systems. Guelph, Canada: Biodiversity Institute of Ontario.

Chase MW, Knapp S, Cox AV, Clarkson JJ, Butsko Y, Joseph J, Savolainen V, Parokonny AS, 2003. Molecular systematics, GISH and the origin of hybrid taxa in Nicotiana (Solanaceae). Annals of Botany, 92(1):107-127

Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2017. Australasian Virtual Herbarium. Australia: Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria.

Doroszewska T, Berbec A, 2004. Variation for cadmium uptake among Nicotiana species. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, 51:323-333

EFlora of India, 2017. Database of Indian Plants - developed by the members of Efloraofindia Google group.

Encyclopedia of Life, 2017. Encyclopedia of Life.

FAO, 2017. The use of species and medicinals as bioactive protectants for grains. Chapter 2. Rome, Italy: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

Farnsworth E, 2000. The ecology and physiology of viviparous and recalcitrant seeds. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 31, 107-138. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.31.1.107

Figueroa-Castro DM, Holtsford TP, 2010. Floral traits and mating systems in sister species of Nicotiana: interpopulational variability and sympatry effects. Plant Ecology, 211(1):119-132

Flora of Pakistan, 2017. Flora of Pakistan/Pakistan Plant Database (PPD). St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Tropicos website.

Frey A, Audran C, Marin E, Sotta B, Marion-Poll A, 1999. Engineering seed dormancy by the modification of zeaxanthin epoxidase gene expression. Plant Molecular Biology, 39(6), 1267-1274. doi: 10.1023/A:1006145025631

Gairola S, El-Keblawy A, Mahmoud T, 2016. A note on the current distribution of Nicotiana plumbaginifolia (Solanaceae) in the United Arab Emirates. National Academy Science Letters, 39(6):461-464

Grappin P, Bouinot D, Sotta B, Miginiac E, Jullien M, 2000. Control of seed dormancy in Nicotiana plumbaginifolia: post-imbibition abscisic acid synthesis imposes dormancy maintenance. Planta, 210(2):279-285

Gupta KK, Chatterjee SK, 1971. Studies on certain aspects of senescence in Nicotiana plumbaginifolia sps. Annals of Botany, 35(142):857-864

HEAR, 2017. Alien species in Hawaii. Hawaii Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, USA: University of Hawaii.

Hérouart D, Van Montagu M, lnzé D, 1994. Developmental and environmental regulation of the Nicotiana plumbaginifolia cytosoIic Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase promoter in transgenic tobacco. Plant Physiology, 104:873-880

India Biodiversity Portal, 2016. Online Portal of India Biodiversity.

Kaczorowski RL, Gardener MC, Holtsford TP, 2005. Nectar traits in Nicotiana section Alatae (Solanaceae) in relation to floral traits, pollinators, and mating system. American Journal of Botany, 92(8):1270-1283

Knapp S, Chase MW, Clarkson JJ, 2004. Nomenclatural changes and a new sectional classification in Nicotiana (Solanaceae). Taxon, 53(1):73-82

Knapp S, Clarkson JJ, 2004. Proposal to conserve the name Nicotiana plumbaginifolia against N. pusilla, N. humilis and N. tenella (Solanaceae). Taxon, 53(3):844-846

Knight MR, Smith SM, Trewavas AJ, 1992. Wind-induced plant motion immediately increases cytosolic calcium. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 89(11), 4967-4971. doi: 10.1073/pnas.89.11.4967

Li BC, Bass WT, Cornelius PL, 2006. Resistance to Tobacco Black Shank in Nicotiana species. Crop Science, 46(2):554-560

Lurquin PF, Kleinhofs A, 2012. Genetic engineering in eukaryotes. New York, USA: Plenum Press, 282 pp

Majira A, Domin M, Grandjean O, Gofron K, Houba-Hérin N, 2002. Seedling lethality in Nicotiana plumbaginifolia conferred by Ds transposable element insertion into a plant-speci?c gene. Plant Molecular Biology, 50(3):551-562

Medicinal Plants, 2017. Medicinal plants with usage, patents and their publications.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017. Tropicos. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Natural History Museum, 2017. Data Portal. London, UK: Natural History Museum.

Oviedo Prieto R, Herrera Oliver P, Caluff MG, et al., 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6 (Special Issue 1):22-96.

Pinto FM, Chupeau Y, Cabrera VM, 1995. Molecular genetic characterization of plant somatic hybrids. In Vitro Cellular Developmental Biology, 31(2):96-100

Rothe SP, 2011. Exotic medicinal plants from West Vidarbha region of Maharashtra -III. Journal of Ecobiotechnology, 3(9):11-13

Singh KP, Daboriya V, Kumar S, Singh S, 2010. Antibacterial activity and phytochemical investigations on Nicotiana plumbaginifolia Viv. (wild tobacco). Romanian Journal of Biology-Plant Biology, 55(2):135-142

Singh TT, Sharma HM, Devi AR, Sharma HR, 2014. Plants used in the treatment of piles by the scheduled caste community of Andro village in Imphal East District, Manipur (India). Journal of Plant Sciences, 2(3):113-119

Smigocki AC, Wilson D, 2004. Pest and disease resistance enhanced by heterologous suppression of a Nicotiana plumbaginifolia cytochrome P450 gene CYP72A2. Biotechnology Letters, 26(23), 1809-1814. doi: 10.1007/s10529-004-4615-8

Srivastava S, Dvivedi A, Shukla RP, 2014. Invasive alien species of terrestrial vegetation of north-eastern Uttar Pradesh. International Journal of Forestry Research, 2014, Article ID 959875.

Sudhakar Reddy C, Bagyanarayana G, Reddy KN, Raju VS, 2008. Invasive alien flora of India. Virginia, USA: US Geological Survey

Teron R, Borthakur SK, 2013. Folklore claims of some medicinal plants as antidote against poisons among the Karbis of Assam, India. Pleione, 7(2):346-356

The Plant List, 2013. The Plant List: a working list of all plant species. Version 1.1. London, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

USDA-ARS, 2017. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), Online Database. Beltsville, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory.

USDA-NRCS, 2017. The PLANTS Database. Baton Rouge, USA: National Plant Data Center.

Vasil IK, Scowcroft WR, Frey KJ, 1982. New York, USA, Academic Press.xi + 300pp.

Wu S, Yang TYA, Teng Y, Chang C, Yang K, Hsieh C, 2010. Insights of the latest naturalized flora of Taiwan: change in the past eight years. Taiwania, 55(2), 139-159.

Links to Websites

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Australia Virtual Herbarium database
Eflora of India
Flora of Pakistan
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
India Biodiversity Portal
Medicinal Plants
Natural History Museum database
The Barcode of Life Data Systems


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01/03/17 Original text by:

Jeanine Vélez-Gavilán, Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico

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