Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Aloysia citrodora
(lemon verbena)

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Datasheet

Aloysia citrodora (lemon verbena)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 14 July 2020
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Aloysia citrodora
  • Preferred Common Name
  • lemon verbena
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Aloysia citrodora is a shrub native to Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay that has been extensively introduced in tropical and warm temperate regions as an aromatic, ornamental and medicinal plant. It is often pla...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Aloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); flowers and leaves. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.
TitleFlowering habit
CaptionAloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); flowers and leaves. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Aloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); flowers and leaves. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.
Flowering habitAloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); flowers and leaves. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Aloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); leaves. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.
TitleLeaves
CaptionAloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); leaves. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Aloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); leaves. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.
LeavesAloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); leaves. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Aloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); leaves and stem. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.
TitleLeaves and stem
CaptionAloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); leaves and stem. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Aloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); leaves and stem. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.
Leaves and stemAloysia citrodora (lemon verbena); leaves and stem. Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March 2011.©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Aloysia citrodora Paláu

Preferred Common Name

  • lemon verbena

Other Scientific Names

  • Aloysia citriodora Palau
  • Aloysia sleumeri Moldenke
  • Aloysia triphylla Royle
  • Aloysia triphylla (L'Hér.) Britton
  • Cordia microcephala Willd. ex Roem. & Schult.
  • Lippia citrodora (Palau) Kunth
  • Lippia triphylla (L'Hér.) Kuntze
  • Verbena citrodora (Palau) Cav.
  • Verbena triphylla L'Hér.
  • Zappania citrodora (Palau) Lam.

International Common Names

  • English: lemon beebrush
  • Spanish: cedrón; cidron; hierba Luisa ; verbena
  • French: verveine citronelle
  • Portuguese: cidrão; cidrinha; salva-limão

Local Common Names

  • Cuba: yerba luisa

Summary of Invasiveness

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Aloysia citrodora is a shrub native to Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay that has been extensively introduced in tropical and warm temperate regions as an aromatic, ornamental and medicinal plant. It is often planted in gardens and as a potted plant. It has escaped from cultivation and also grows spontaneously after cultivation. This species has the capability to spread by seeds and vegetatively from stem fragments or cuttings. Currently, A. citrodora is listed as invasive in Cuba and South Africa, and it can be found naturalized in a wide range of habitats and regions around the world. It is included in the Global Compendium of Weeds.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Lamiales
  •                         Family: Verbenaceae
  •                             Genus: Aloysia
  •                                 Species: Aloysia citrodora

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Verbenaceae family comprises 31 genera (O'Leary et al., 2016) and 918 species of herbs, shrubs and trees with a pantropical distribution. The family appears to have originated in tropical South America. Species in this family are often aromatic plants with opposite, serrate leaves and angled stems (Stevens, 2019). The epithet “citrodora” has been spelled with a second ‘i' as ‘citriodora’ by many authors, but in the recent revision of the genus, O'Leary et al. (2016) indicated that the correct spelling is ‘citrodora’.

Description

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The following description is from O'Leary et al. (2016):

Shrubs 1-3 m tall, aromatic, stems glabrous at maturity, subpendulous. Leaves ternate, briefly petiolate, petioles 1-5 mm; blades elliptic, 2-8 × 1-2.5 cm, apex acute, base acute, margins entire or slightly serrate, blade adaxially scabrous, abaxially glabrate with subsessile glandular trichomes, midvein and pinnate venation conspicuous. Inflorescences terminal and axillary (heterothetic pleiobotrya), lax,1-5 cm, the terminal ones grouped as paniculiform inflorescences; flowers white, small; floral bracts reduced, ovate, 1-1.5 mm, scabrous. Flower with the with calyx 2.5-3 mm, puberulous, with 4 brief teeth, unequal, triangular; corolla tube 5-6 mm, externally puberulous. Cluse 2 × 1 mm, glabrous or pubescent at apex.

Plant Type

Top of page Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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Aloysia citrodora is native to northwestern Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. It has been extensively introduced as ornamental, medicinal, and aromatic plant and can be found cultivated and naturalized across North and South America, the Mediterranean, Africa and India (O'Leary et al., 2016; Hurrell, 2018; Govaerts, 2019; USDA-ARS, 2019).

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

Africa

Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresentIntroducedGRIIS (2019)
RwandaPresentIntroducedGRIIS (2019)
South AfricaPresentIntroducedInvasiveHenderson and Wilson (2017)

Asia

IndiaPresentIntroducedInvasiveGRIIS (2019)
-AssamPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2019)
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2019)

Europe

AlbaniaPresentIntroducedGovaerts (2019)
CroatiaPresentIntroducedGRIIS (2019)
FrancePresentIntroducedGRIIS (2019)
GreecePresentIntroducedGRIIS (2019)
ItalyPresentIntroducedGovaerts (2019)Sardinia
SpainPresentIntroducedGovaerts (2019)

North America

CubaPresentIntroducedInvasiveOviedo Prieto and González-Oliva (2015)
MexicoPresentIntroducedGovaerts (2019)
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedGovaerts (2019)
United StatesPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS (2019)
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS (2019)
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS (2019)
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS (2019)

South America

ArgentinaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2019)Catamarca, Jujuy, La Rioja, Salta, Tucumán
BoliviaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2019)Cochabamba, La Paz, Tarija
BrazilPresentIntroducedSalimena and Múlgura (2015)
-ParanaPresentIntroducedSalimena and Múlgura (2015)
-Rio Grande do SulPresentIntroducedSalimena and Múlgura (2015)
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroducedSalimena and Múlgura (2015)
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedSalimena and Múlgura (2015)
ColombiaPresentIntroducedGovaerts (2019)
ParaguayPresentNativeUSDA-ARS (2019)
PeruPresentIntroducedGovaerts (2019)
UruguayPresentIntroducedGovaerts (2019)
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedGovaerts (2019)

History of Introduction and Spread

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Aloysia citrodora was introduced to Spain in the 17th century by Spanish explorers. This species was described in 1784 by the Spanish botanist Antonio Palau using material from the Real Jardín Botánico in Madrid. It then spread from Spain to other regions in the Mediterranean (Hurrell, 2018).

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of new introductions of A. citrodora is high. This species is a popular ornamental and aromatic plant that has been introduced into tropical and temperate regions where it has the potential to escape and become naturalized (O'Leary et al., 2016; Hurrell, 2018; USDA-ARS, 2019). In addition, recent studies have highlighted its antioxidant and analgesic properties, with and potential uses including cancer treatments (Zamorano-Ponce et al., 2006; Bahramsoltani et al., 2018; Hurrell, 2018). Therefore, it is likely that new introductions will continue in future years.

Habitat

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Aloysia citrodora can be found growing in dry scrub, open fields and along roadsides. It is adapted to grow in semi-arid habitats but can also grow in moist tropical habitats (Múlgura et al., 2012; O'Leary et al., 2016; Useful Tropical Plants, 2019).  

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalScrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Arid regions Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Arid regions Present, no further details Natural
Arid regions Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for A. citrodora is 2n=36 (Múlgura et al., 2012).

Reproductive Biology

Aloysia citrodora has bisexual flowers that are pollinated by insects (India Biodiversity Portal, 2019).

Physiology and Phenology

In India, it has been recorded flowering and fruiting from June to September (India Biodiversity Portal, 2019). In the northern hemisphere flowers occur from mid-summer to early fall and the seeds ripen from September to October (Useful Tropical Plants, 2019).

Longevity and Activity Patterns

Aloysia citrodora is perennial, deciduous shrub (O'Leary et al., 2016).

Environmental Requirements

Aloysia citrodora grows in tropical and warm temperate zones at elevations from sea level up to about 2000 m. It grows well in areas with mean annual temperatures ranging from 18°C to 28°C (tolerates 14°C - 33°C) and mean annual rainfall ranging from 600 mm to 1,000 mm (tolerates 500-1,800 mm). Mature plants can be killed by temperatures of -12°C and seedling and young plants can be badly damaged at 0°C. It prefers fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 - 7.5. Excess water promotes root rot (Hurrell, 2018; ECOCROP, 2019; Useful Tropical Plants, 2019). 

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm 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)
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
45 35

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 14 33

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall5001800mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal
Summer
Uniform
Winter

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Aloysia citrodora spreads by seed and vegetatively by cuttings or dividing clumps. Seeds are dispersed by wind and the fruits are dry schizocarps that can disperse by adhering to animals and humans (Múlgura et al., 2012; India Biodiversity Portal, 2019).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Botanical gardens and zoosCultivated as an ornamental Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2019
DisturbanceNaturalized in disturbed sites Yes Yes Useful Tropical Plants, 2019
Escape from confinement or garden escapeEscaped and naturalized Yes Yes GRIIS, 2019
Garden waste disposalSeeds, stem fragments Yes Yes Useful Tropical Plants, 2019
HorticultureCultivated as an ornamental Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2019
Internet salesSeeds and plants sold online Yes Yes
Medicinal usePopular medicinal plant Yes Yes Hurrell, 2018
Nursery tradeCultivated as an ornamental Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2019
Ornamental purposesCultivated as an ornamental Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2019

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesCultivated as an ornamental, aromatic and medicinal plant Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2019
MailSeeds and plants sold online Yes Yes ,
WindSeeds Yes Yes India Biodiversity Portal, 2019

Impact Summary

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

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside 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
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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Social Benefit

Aloysia citrodora is used as an aromatic and ornamental plant. The leaves are used to add lemon flavor to food, beverages and liquors, consumed as a vegetable in salads and soups,  and used to make herbal teas. The dry leaves are used in potpourri. Essential oil extracted from the leaves is used in perfumery and aromatherapy. It is also planted in gardens as an insect repellent plant (Hurrell, 2018; Useful Tropical Plants, 2019; USDA-ARS, 2019).

Aloysia citrodora is also a popular medicinal herb used to treat gastrointestinal disorders (digestive, antispasmodic, carminative, antidiarrheal), insomnia and rheumatism. It is also used as a mild sedative, cardiotonic, febrifuge, analgesic and antiseptic (Bahramsoltani et al., 2018; Hurrell, 2018; Useful Tropical Plants, 2019).

Within its native range, this species is harvested from wild areas where it grows spontaneously. According to Severin et al. (2005) the wild populations in Argentina are overexploited.

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Amenity

Human food and beverage

  • Food additive
  • Leaves (for beverage)
  • Spices and culinary herbs
  • Vegetable

Materials

  • Essential oils
  • Pesticide

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Aloysia citrodora can be confused with A. friebrigii, which also has ternate leaves. However, in A. friebrigii the blades are smaller, 1.8-3 × 0.2-0.5 cm, and the blade margin is always entire, in contrast to the blades 2-8 × 1-2.5 cm in A. citrodora, which are also entire but sometimes with a slightly serrate margin. Additionally, A. citrodora has strongly lemon-scent leaves, which easily distinguishes it from other species in the genus (O'Leary et al., 2016).

References

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Arianoutsou, M., Bazos, I., Delipetrou, P., Kokkoris, Y., 2010. The alien flora of Greece: taxonomy, life traits and habitat preferences. Biological Invasions, 12(10), 3525-3549. doi: 10.1007/s10530-010-9749-0

Bahramsoltani, R., Rostamiasrabadi, P., Shahpiri, Z., Marques, A. M., Rahimi, R., Farzaei, M. H., 2018. Aloysia citrodora Paláu (Lemon verbena): a review of phytochemistry and pharmacology. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 222, 34-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2018.04.021

ECOCROP, 2019. Crop Ecological Requirements Database. FAO.http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home

Govaerts, R, 2019. World Checklist of Verbenaceae. Richmond, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.http://wcsp.science.kew.org/

GRIIS, 2019. Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species. http://www.griis.org/

Henderson, L., Wilson, J. R. U., 2017. Changes in the composition and distribution of alien plants in South Africa: an update from the Southern African Plant Invaders Atlas. Bothalia - African Biodiversity & Conservation, 47(2), a2172. doi: 10.4102/abc.v47i2.2172

Hurrell JA, 2018. Aloysia citriodora Palau. In: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants of South America, Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. 97-108.

India Biodiversity Portal, 2019. Online Portal of India Biodiversity. In: Online Portal of India Biodiversity . http://indiabiodiversity.org/species/list

Múlgura ME, O’Leary N, Rotman A, 2012. Verbenaceae. In: Flora Argentina. Flora Vascular de la República Argentina, vol 14, [ed. by Anton AM, Zuloaga FO]. Córdoba, Argentina: Graficamente Ediciones.

O'Leary, N., Lu-Irving, P., Moroni, P., Siedo, S., 2016. Taxonomic revision of Aloysia (Verbenaceae, Lantaneae) in South America. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 101(3), 568-609. http://www.bioone.org/loi/mobt

Oviedo Prieto, R., González-Oliva, L., 2015. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2015. (Lista nacional de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2015). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 9(Special Issue No. 2), 1-88. http://repositorio.geotech.cu/jspui/bitstream/1234/1476/4/Lista%20nacional%20de%20plantas%20invasoras%20de%20Cuba-2015.pdf

Randall, R. P., 2017. A global compendium of weeds, (Ed.3) [ed. by Randall, R. P.]. Perth, Australia: R. P. Randall.iii + 3653 pp.

Severin C, Bruzzese D, Di Sapio O, Goubileo MG, Gattuso S, 2005. (Regeneración in vitro de plantas de Aloysia citriodora Palau (Verbenaceae)). Revista de Investigaciones de la Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias UNR, 5(8), 61-66.

Stevens, P. F., 2019. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 14. In: Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 14 . St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden.http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb/

USDA-ARS, 2019. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. In: Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory.https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx

Useful Tropical Plants, 2019. Useful tropical plants database. In: Useful tropical plants database : K Fern.http://tropical.theferns.info/

Zamorano-Ponce, E., Morales, C., Ramos, D., Sepúlveda, C., Cares, S., Rivera, P., Fernández, J., Carballo, M. A., 2006. Anti-genotoxic effect of Aloysia triphylla infusion against acrylamide-induced DNA damage as shown by the comet assay technique. Mutation Research, Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, 603(2), 145-150. doi: 10.1016/j.mrgentox.2005.11.009

Distribution References

Govaerts R, 2019. World Checklist of Verbenaceae. Richmond, UK: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://wcsp.science.kew.org/

GRIIS, 2019. Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species., http://www.griis.org/

Henderson L, Wilson J R U, 2017. Changes in the composition and distribution of alien plants in South Africa: an update from the Southern African Plant Invaders Atlas. Bothalia - African Biodiversity & Conservation. 47 (2), a2172. DOI:10.4102/abc.v47i2.2172

India Biodiversity Portal, 2019. Online Portal of India Biodiversity. In: Online Portal of India Biodiversity. http://indiabiodiversity.org/species/list

Oviedo Prieto R, González-Oliva L, 2015. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2015. (Lista nacional de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2015). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba. 9 (Special Issue No. 2), 1-88. http://repositorio.geotech.cu/jspui/bitstream/1234/1476/4/Lista%20nacional%20de%20plantas%20invasoras%20de%20Cuba-2015.pdf

Salimena FRG, Múlgura M, 2015. Aloysia citrodora. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro. http://floradobrasil.jbrj.gov.br/jabot/floradobrasil/FB39633

USDA-ARS, 2019. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. In: Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx

USDA-NRCS, 2019. The PLANTS Database. In: The PLANTS Database. Greensboro, North Carolina, USA: National Plant Data Team. https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov

Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Contributors

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25/11/19 Original text by:

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

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