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Datasheet

Gomphocarpus physocarpus
(balloon cotton bush)

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Datasheet

Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Gomphocarpus physocarpus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • balloon cotton bush
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • G. physocarpus is a shrub, widely naturalized in tropical, subtropical and semiarid ecosystems. It commonly grows as a weed in waste places, disturbed sites, open woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, and along roadsides and it is also planted...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruiting habit. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
TitleFruiting habit
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruiting habit. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
Copyright©Bernard DuPont/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruiting habit. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
Fruiting habitGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruiting habit. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.©Bernard DuPont/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New South Wales, Australia. November 2009.
TitleFruit
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New South Wales, Australia. November 2009.
Copyright©John Tann/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New South Wales, Australia. November 2009.
FruitGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New South Wales, Australia. November 2009.©John Tann/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
TitleFruit
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
Copyright©Bernard DuPont/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
FruitGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.©Bernard DuPont/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. Woodside, California, USA. October 2012.
TitleFruit
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. Woodside, California, USA. October 2012.
Copyright©Amatulic (Anachronist)/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. Woodside, California, USA. October 2012.
FruitGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. Woodside, California, USA. October 2012.©Amatulic (Anachronist)/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 3.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
TitleFruit
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
FruitGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Fruit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Seeds inside fruit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
TitleFruit and seeds
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Seeds inside fruit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Seeds inside fruit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
Fruit and seedsGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Seeds inside fruit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
TitleFlowers
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
Copyright©Bernard DuPont/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
FlowersGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.©Bernard DuPont/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
TitleFlowers
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
Copyright©Bernard DuPont/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.
FlowersGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. St Lucia Park, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. September 2016.©Bernard DuPont/via Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New South Wales, Australia. November 2009.
TitleFlowers
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New South Wales, Australia. November 2009.
Copyright©John Tann/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New South Wales, Australia. November 2009.
FlowersGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, New South Wales, Australia. November 2009.©John Tann/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flower. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
TitleFlower
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flower. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flower. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
FlowerGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flower. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers and buds. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
TitleFlowers and buds
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers and buds. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers and buds. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
Flowers and budsGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Flowers and buds. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Sap and foliage. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
TitleSap and foliage
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Sap and foliage. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Sap and foliage. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
Sap and foliageGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Sap and foliage. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Habit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
TitleHabit
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Habit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Habit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.
HabitGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Habit. New South Wales, Australia. September 2004.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Habit. New South Wales, Australia. July 2014.
TitleHabit
CaptionGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Habit. New South Wales, Australia. July 2014.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Habit. New South Wales, Australia. July 2014.
HabitGomphocarpus physocarpus (balloon cotton bush); Habit. New South Wales, Australia. July 2014.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Gomphocarpus physocarpus E.Mey.

Preferred Common Name

  • balloon cotton bush

Other Scientific Names

  • Asclepias brasiliensis (E. Fourn.) Schltr.
  • Asclepias physocarpa (E.Mey.) Schltr.
  • Gomphocarpus brasiliensis E. Fourn.

International Common Names

  • English: balloon gomphocarpus; balloon milkweed; balloon plant; bladderbush; Cape cotton; cotton bush; gomphocarpus; swan plant; wild cotton
  • Spanish: algodon falso; globo; sedas
  • Chinese: dun ding tou guo
  • Portuguese: algodoeiro-falso; paina-de-seda

Local Common Names

  • Australia: balloon cottonbush; balloon cotton-bush
  • Cuba: globo; planta globo
  • India: swanplant
  • South Africa: balbossie; balmelkbossie; bindweed; hairy balls; umangwazane; umbababa; umbemiso; umqumnqwewe; umsingalwesalukazi; uphuphuma; usingalwesalukazi; wilde kapok
  • Spain: seda

Summary of Invasiveness

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G. physocarpus is a shrub, widely naturalized in tropical, subtropical and semiarid ecosystems. It commonly grows as a weed in waste places, disturbed sites, open woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, and along roadsides and it is also planted as an ornamental in gardens, yards and parks (Wagner et al., 1999; Motooka et al., 2003; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). In Hawaii and Australia, this species has been recorded invading active pastures and sugarcane plantations as well as coastal and dry forests (Motooka et al., 2003; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). Features such as high drought tolerance, fast-growing, weedy behaviour, and wind-dispersed seeds are factors facilitating the invasion of this species into new habitats. In addition, each plant produces large numbers of small seeds which are successfully dispersed by wind aided by the tuft of silky hairs attached to each seed (Notten, 2010). Currently, G. physocarpus is listed as invasive in Hawaii, French Polynesia, the Canary Islands, New Caledonia, China and Australia and as potentially invasive in Cuba, Jamaica, India and Italy (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; DAISIE, 2014; PIER, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014). 

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Gentianales
  •                         Family: Asclepiadaceae
  •                             Genus: Gomphocarpus
  •                                 Species: Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Apocynaceae (the milkweed family) is a large family of plants including 415 genera and about 4555 species distributed largely throughout the tropics but also in warm temperate climates (Stevens, 2012). The genus Gomphocarpus was previously included in the family Asclepiadaceae (as one species in the genus Asclepias), but this family is now classified as a subfamily, Asclepiadoideae, within the family Apocynaceae. Members of the subfamily Asclepiadoideae have highly specialized flowers with complicated pollination mechanisms (Coombs et al., 2009; Notten, 2010). Currently, Gomphocarpus comprises about 25–50 species that occur in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Ten species occur in southern Africa. The name Gomphocarpus is derived from the Greek gomphos meaning a club, and karpos, fruit (Notten, 2010).

Many of the common names for G. physocarpus incorporate ‘balloon’, alluding to the swelling bladder-like follicles which are full of seeds. This species will readily hybridize with Gomphocarpus fruticosus creating intermediate forms.

The taxonomic tree reflects the CAB Thesaurus, which continues to use the Cronquist system in which the genus Gomphocarpus is placed in the family Asclepiadaceae.

Description

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G. physocarpus is an upright, soft shrub 0.5 to 2 m tall with a fibrous rootstock. Young stems and inflorescences pubescent. Petiole approximately 1 cm; leaf blade narrowly lanceolate, 5-l0 × 0.6-1.5 cm, adaxially sparsely pubescent, abaxially hairy along midvein, both ends tapering or acute. Branches are pale yellowish green and hollow. The leaves are light green, opposite, and narrowly oblong to lance-shaped. Flowers in pendulous clusters, corolla white, 1.4-2 cm in diameter; lobes ovate, 8-10 mm, reflexed, margin densely bearded. Corona lobes white, inner margin of hoodlike apex with 2, short, recurved or straight cusps, with a large adaxial nectary. In the centre of the flower is the corona, consisting of five pouched lobes that develop from the petals. The petals are white and the corona is suffused with pink or purple. The corona surrounds the stamens and carpels composed of ovary, style and stigma. The filaments of the stamens are fused to form a staminal column which encloses the female part. The female part consists of two free carpels, the tips of which are united and enlarged to form the style head. This is the yellowish, 5-lobed disc that can be seen at the centre of the flower. The anthers are fused to the style head. The pollen grains of each anther lobe are united to form two waxy masses known as pollinia or pollen sacs. Fruits are large spherical inflated follicles, 6-8 × 2.5-5 cm, base oblique, apex rounded, beakless; pericarp with soft bristles or spines, minutely tomentose when young, glabrescent when ripe. Seeds ovate, approximately 5 mm; coma shining white, approximately 5 mm, each with a tuft of long silky hairs attached at one end (Notten, 2010; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014). 

Plant Type

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Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub

Distribution

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G. physocarpus is native to South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique (Notten, 2010; USDA-ARS, 2014). It is cultivated and naturalized in Africa, Mediterranean countries, China, India, Mexico, Central America, and tropical South America (see distribution table for details, DAISIE, 2014; PROTA; 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014). 

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: 17 Feb 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

AngolaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
BotswanaPresentIntroduced
BurundiPresentIntroduced
CameroonPresentIntroduced
EswatiniPresentNative
EthiopiaPresentIntroduced
KenyaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
MauritiusPresentIntroducedInvasive
-RodriguesPresentIntroducedInvasive
MozambiquePresentNative
NigeriaPresentIntroduced
SenegalPresentIntroduced
South AfricaPresentNative
SudanPresentIntroduced
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
UgandaPresentIntroduced
ZimbabwePresentIntroduced

Asia

ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedCultivated for medicine
-HainanPresentIntroducedCultivated for medicine
Hong KongPresentIntroducedInvasive
IndiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-KeralaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized, widely distributed
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized, widely distributed
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized

Europe

GreecePresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
ItalyPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-SicilyPresentIntroduced
PolandPresentIntroduced
PortugalPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
SpainPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Balearic IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasive

North America

Costa RicaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
CubaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized. Listed as potentially invasive
DominicaPresentIntroduced
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
GuadeloupePresentIntroduced
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
HondurasPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
JamaicaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
MexicoPresentIntroducedOaxaca
PanamaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedNaturalizedRecent introduction, naturalised
United StatesPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedInvasive

Oceania

AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedInvasive
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedInvasive
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedNaturlaized
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedCultivated
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedInvasive
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroducedInvasive

South America

BoliviaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-BahiaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-GoiasPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-ParaibaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-ParanaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-SergipePresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
ColombiaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
PeruPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized

History of Introduction and Spread

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In Hawaii, G. physocarpus was originally introduced as a fibre crop and it was first collected outside cultivation in 1919 (Motooka et al., 2003). In Australia, this species was introduced to be used as an ornamental, and it was first collected in the wild in 1887 in the Northern Territory (Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2014). For the Caribbean region, the oldest collection of this species existing in the US National Herbarium was collected in Jamaica in 1900. In Puerto Rico, it appears that G. physocarpus has been recently introduced, as it was first collected on this island in 1994 (US National Herbarium) and currently it is naturalized along roads in the Central Mountain range. 

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of G. physocarpus is high. Because this species is often planted as an ornamental and medicinal plant and produces large numbers of seeds which can be easily dispersed by wind, its probability of escaping from cultivation and colonizing new habitats is high. There is also risk of introduction of seeds as contaminants of agricultural produce (e.g. fodder) and soil or in mud attached to animals, machinery and other vehicles (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). 

Habitat

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Where native (i.e., South Africa), G. physocarpus grows in grassland and bushland, often along roadsides and in disturbed areas, from the coast to 900 m above sea level (Notten, 2010). In Australia, G. physocarpus grows as a weed in open woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, disturbed sites, waste areas, roadsides, pastures and plantation crops in the sub-tropical, tropical, and warmer temperate regions (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). In Hawaii, it is a common species in low elevation dry areas of all islands (Motooka et al., 2003). 

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalWetlands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalWetlands Present, no further details Natural
LittoralCoastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
LittoralCoastal areas Present, no further details Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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G. physocarpus was recorded growing as a weed in pastures and in crops such as sugarcane (Motooka et al., 2003; Flora of China, 2014). It is also an environmental weed affecting principally lowland dry forests, coastal forests and wetlands (DAISIE, 2014; PROTA; 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014). 

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContextReferences
pasturesMain
    SaccharumPoaceaeMain

      Biology and Ecology

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      Genetics

      The chromosome number reported for G. physocarpus is 2n=22 (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014).

      Reproductive Biology

      Pollination in G. physocarpus is highly specialized due to the present of pollinia and because pollinia removed from flowers must undergo gradual reconfiguration before they can be inserted into stigmas. In South Africa, this species is pollinated by a wide variety of vespid wasps in the genera Belonogaster and Polistes and by honey bees and Halictidae bees (Coombs et al., 2009). The species is self-incompatible and completely reliant on insects to set fruits. However, some populations in Australia, where this species is invasive, appear to be self-compatible (Notten, 2010). These results show that compatibility in G. physocarpus may vary among individuals and populations, but even in self-compatible populations, cross-pollination usually produces higher fruit set (Coombs et al., 2009). In Australia, pollinia have been found on a variety of insects, but only wasps and hornets were observed producing effective pollination. This shows that its pollination method, although specialized, can be successfully performed by similar wasps in other parts of the world (Coombs et al., 2009; Notten, 2010).

      Physiology and Phenology

      Within and outside its native distribution range, G. physocarpus produces flowers almost throughout the year. In South Africa a flowering peak occurs during summer (November to April; Notten, 2010).

      Associations

      G. physocarpus is a food plant for the larva of the African monarch butterfly (Danaus chrysippus orientis). The caterpillars are immune to the poisonous alkaloids occurring in the latex of this species (Notten, 2010).

      Environmental Requirements

      G. physocarpus grows in tropical, warm subtropical, semiarid areas from sea level up to 900 m in South Africa and up to 1830 m in Hawaii (Wagner et al., 1999; Notten, 2010). It is drought tolerant and prefers to grow in areas with full sunlight exposure and well drained acid soils (pH = 5.6 - 6). Controlled germination at temperatures between 21 and 23°C usually takes 14-21 days after sowing.

      Climate

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      ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
      Am - Tropical monsoon climate Tolerated Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
      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 Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
      BW - Desert climate Preferred < 430mm annual precipitation
      Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers

      Air Temperature

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      Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
      Mean annual temperature (ºC) 15 33

      Rainfall

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      ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
      Mean annual rainfall625mm; lower/upper limits

      Rainfall Regime

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      Bimodal
      Uniform

      Soil Tolerances

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      Soil reaction

      • acid

      Soil texture

      • light
      • medium

      Natural enemies

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      Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
      Danaus chrysippus orientis Herbivore not specific

      Means of Movement and Dispersal

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      G. physocarpus spreads by seed. Seeds are easily dispersed by wind and water aided by the tuft of silky hairs attached to each seed. They may also be dispersed as a contaminant of crops, fodder, and soils or in mud attached to animals, machinery and other vehicles (Notten, 2010; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011).

      Pathway Causes

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      CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
      DisturbanceSeeds Yes Yes Motooka et al. (2003)
      Escape from confinement or garden escapeSeeds dispersed by wind Yes Yes Motooka et al. (2003)
      Garden waste disposalSeeds Yes Yes Motooka et al. (2003)
      Medicinal useMedicinal plant Yes Yes Flora of China Editorial Committee (2014)
      Ornamental purposesOften planted as ornamental Yes Yes USDA-ARS (2014)

      Pathway Vectors

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      VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
      Debris and waste associated with human activitiesFruits, seeds, and stem fragments Yes Yes Motooka et al. (2003)
      Land vehiclesFruits, seeds, and stem fragments Yes Yes Motooka et al. (2003)
      Machinery and equipmentFruits, seeds, and stem fragments Yes Yes Motooka et al. (2003)
      Soil, sand and gravelFruits, seeds, and stem fragments Yes Yes Motooka et al. (2003)
      WindSeeds Yes Yes Motooka et al. (2003)

      Impact Summary

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

      Economic Impact

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      G. physocarpus is toxic to cattle, sheep, horses, donkeys and pigs. It is also a weed in active pastures and crops such as sugarcane plantations where it may reduce the productivity. In Hawaii, infestations can grow to the point that cattle and livestock were not visible in invaded pastures (Motooka et al., 2003). 

      Environmental Impact

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      G. physocarpus is an aggressive environmental weed and invades grasslands, open woodlands, pastures, forest edges in dry forests, coastal forest, wetland margins, and semiarid environments where it replaces native species and grows forming dense monospecfic thickets (Motooka et al., 2003; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011; DAISIE, 2014; PIER, 2014). It is listed among the top 100 most invasive plant species in southeastern Queensland (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). 

      Social Impact

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      All parts of G. physocarpus exude milky white latex that is poisonous to livestock and humans (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). 

      Risk and Impact Factors

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      Invasiveness
      • Proved invasive outside its 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
      Impact outcomes
      • Damaged ecosystem services
      • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
      • Modification of successional patterns
      • Monoculture formation
      • Negatively impacts agriculture
      • Negatively impacts human health
      • Negatively impacts animal health
      • Negatively impacts livelihoods
      • Reduced native biodiversity
      • Threat to/ loss of native species
      Impact mechanisms
      • Causes allergic responses
      • Competition - monopolizing resources
      • Competition - smothering
      • Poisoning
      • Rapid growth
      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

      Uses

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      G. physocarpus is widely used in traditional medicine in Africa and Asia. The roots are used to treat stomach ache. Leaves are dried and ground into a powder that is taken as snuff for headaches. The milky latex is used to treat warts. It is also used as an ornamental and fibre crop. Fibres are used to make netting and fishing nets. In Africa, the inflated fruits are used in fresh and dried floral arrangements (Motooka et al., 2003; Notten, 2010; PROTA, 2014). 

      Uses List

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      Environmental

      • Amenity

      General

      • Botanical garden/zoo

      Materials

      • Fibre

      Medicinal, pharmaceutical

      • Traditional/folklore

      Ornamental

      • Potted plant
      • Propagation material

      Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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      G. physocarpus is very similar to G. fruticosus and these two species can be distinguished by the following differences:

      • G. physocarpus has rounded (globose or sub-globose) fruit that come to an abrupt point and often have a sunken tip with a tiny beak.
      • G. fruticosus has narrowly egg-shaped (ovoid) and slightly curved fruit that gradually taper to a short, curved beak.


      These two species often grow together and readily hybridize. Hybrids consist of plants that gradually intergrade between the two species, sometimes making it impossible to assign individual plants to a particular species (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011).

      References

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      Acevedo-Rodríguez P; Strong MT, 2014. Flora of the West Indies website: Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution. http://botany.si.edu/antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm

      Broome R; Sabir K; Carrington S, 2007. Plants of the Eastern Caribbean. Online database. Barbados: University of the West Indies. http://ecflora.cavehill.uwi.edu/index.html

      Coombs G; Peter CI; Johnson SD, 2009. A test for Allee effects in the self-incompatible wasp-pollinated milkweed Gomphocarpus physocarpus. Austral Ecology, 34(6):688-697. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/loi/aec

      Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, 2014. Australia's virtual herbarium, Australia. http://avh.ala.org.au

      DAISIE, 2014. Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe. European Invasive Alien Species Gateway. www.europe-aliens.org/default.do

      Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014. Flora of China. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=2

      Florence J; Chevillotte H; Ollier C; Meyer J-Y, 2013. Base de données botaniques Nadeaud de l'Herbier de la Polynésie Française (PAP) (Botanical database of the Nadeaud Herbarium of French Polynesia). http://www.herbier-tahiti.pf

      García-Mendoza AJ; Meave Castillo JAdel, 2011. Diversidad Florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas ([English title not available])., México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 351 pp.

      India Biodiversity, 2014. Online Portal of India Biodiversity. http://indiabiodiversity.org/species/list

      Koch I; Rapini A; Kinoshita LS; Simões AO; Spina AP, 2013. Apocynaceae. Lista de Espécies da Flora do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro. http://floradobrasil.jbrj.gov.br/jabot/floradobrasil/FB4508

      MacKee HS, 1994. Catalogue of introduced and cultivated plants in New Caledonia. (Catalogue des plantes introduites et cultivées en Nouvelle-Calédonie.) Paris, France: Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, unpaginated.

      Motooka P; Castro L; Nelson D; Nagai G; Ching L, 2003. Weeds of Hawaii's Pastures and Natural Areas; an identification and management guide. Manoa, Hawaii, USA: College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii.

      Notten A, 2010. Gomphocarpus physocarpus. PlantZAfrica: Plants of South Africa. Online Resources of the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, South Africa. http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantefg/gomphophysocarp.htm

      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.

      PIER, 2014. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/pier/index.html

      PROTA, 2014. PROTA4U web database. Grubben GJH, Denton OA, eds. Wageningen, Netherlands: Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp

      Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011. Special edition of Environmental Weeds of Australia for Biosecurity Queensland., Australia: The University of Queensland and Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. http://keyserver.lucidcentral.org/weeds/data/03030800-0b07-490a-8d04-0605030c0f01/media/Html/Index.htm

      Stevens PF, 2012. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. http://www.mobot.org/MOBOT/research/APweb/

      USDA-ARS, 2014. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysearch.aspx

      Wagner WI; Herbst DR; Sohmer SH, 1999. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii, revised edition. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: University of Hawaii Press.

      Wu TL, 2001. Check List of Hong Kong Plants. Hong Kong Herbarium and the South China Institute of Botany. Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department Bulletin 1 (revised):384 pp. http://www.hkflora.com/v2/flora/plant_check_list.php

      Distribution References

      Acevedo-Rodríguez P, Strong MT, 2014. Flora of the West Indies website: Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies., Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution. http://botany.si.edu/antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm

      Broome R, Sabir K, Carrington S, 2007. Plants of the Eastern Caribbean., Barbados: University of the West Indies. http://ecflora.cavehill.uwi.edu/index.html

      CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status inferred from regional distribution. Wallingford, UK: CABI

      DAISIE, 2014. Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe. http://www.europe-aliens.org/

      Fischer I H, Almeida A M, Garcia M J M, Bertani R M A, Bueno C J, 2008. First report of Lasiodiplodia theobromae on Asclepias physocarpa in Brazil. Australasian Plant Disease Notes. 3 (1), 116-117. http://www.publish.csiro.au/view/journals/dsp_journal_fulltext.cfm?nid=208&f=DN08046

      Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014. Flora of China., St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=2

      Florence J, Chevillotte H, Ollier C, Meyer J-Y, 2013. Nadeaud botanical database of the Herbarium of French Polynesia. (Base de données botaniques Nadeaud de l'Herbier de la Polynésie Française (PAP))., https://nadeaud.ilm.pf/

      Fuhlbohm M J, Ryley M J, Aitken E A B, 2012. New weed hosts of Macrophomina phaseolina in Australia. Australasian Plant Disease Notes. 7 (1), 193-195. http://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13314-012-0082-6/fulltext.html DOI:10.1007/s13314-012-0082-6

      García-Mendoza AJ, Meave Castillo JA del, 2011. ([English title not available]). (Diversidad Florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas ()., México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. 351 pp.

      India Biodiversity, 2014. Online Portal of India Biodiversity., http://indiabiodiversity.org/species/list

      Koch I, Rapini A, Kinoshita LS, Simões AO, Spina AP, 2013. (Apocynaceae. Lista de Espécies da Flora do Brasil)., Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro. http://floradobrasil.jbrj.gov.br/jabot/floradobrasil/FB4508

      MacKee H S, 1994. Catalogue des plantes introduites et cultivées en Nouvelle-Calédonie. Paris, France: Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. unpaginated.

      Notten A, 2010. Gomphocarpus physocarpus. In: PlantZAfrica: Plants of South Africa, South Africa: Online Resources of the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantefg/gomphophysocarp.htm

      Oviedo Prieto R, Herrera Oliver P, Caluff M G, 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 No. 1), 22-96.

      PIER, 2014. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk., Honolulu, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/pier/index.html

      PROTA, 2014. PROTA4U web database., [ed. by Grubben GJH, Denton OA]. Wageningen, Netherlands: Plant Resources of Tropical Africa. http://www.prota4u.org/search.asp

      Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011. Special edition of Environmental Weeds of Australia for Biosecurity Queensland., Australia: The University of Queensland and Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. http://keyserver.lucidcentral.org/weeds/data/03030800-0b07-490a-8d04-0605030c0f01/media/Html/Index.htm

      USDA-ARS, 2014. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx

      Wagner WI, Herbst DR, Sohmer SH, 1999. Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii, revised edition., Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: University of Hawaii Press.

      Wu TL, 2001. Check List of Hong Kong Plants. In: Hong Kong Herbarium and the South China Institute of Botany. Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department Bulletin 1 (revised), 384 pp. http://www.hkflora.com/v2/flora/plant_check_list.php

      Links to Websites

      Top of page
      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.
      Plants of South Africahttp://www.plantzafrica.com/

      Contributors

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      18/06/14 Original text by:

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

      Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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