Helminthotheca echioides (bristly oxtongue)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Helminthotheca echioides (L.) Holub
Preferred Common Name
- bristly oxtongue
Other Scientific Names
- Crepis echioides (L.) All.
- Helminthia echioides (L.) Gaertn.
- Helminthia humifusa (Willd.) Trevir.
- Helminthia pratensis Chevall.
- Helminthia rigida Schult. ex Steud.
- Helminthia spinosa DC.
- Helminthia tuberculata Moench
- Picris echioides L.
- Picris humifusa Willd.
- Picris ruderalis Salisb.
- Picris spinosa (DC.) Poir.
International Common Names
- English: ox-tongue
- French: helminthie fausse-vipérine
Local Common Names
- Austria: wurmlattich
- Brazil: falsa-serralha
- Denmark: vingekurv
- Germany: natterkopf-bitterkraut; wurmlattich
- Lithuania: zalkspiene
- Norway: tornbeiskeblom
- Poland: goryczel zmijowcowy
- South Africa: ostong; stekelrige beestong; stekepicris; wildedissel
- Sweden: lyktfibbla; oxtungsfibbla
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Helminthotheca echioides, commonly known as bristly oxtongue, is an annual or perennial, herbaceous herb found in dry and disturbed areas. Native to the western Mediterranean region and possibly elsewhere in Europe and Asia, it has been introduced to North America, South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of Europe. H. echioides can be a weed of crops and can form dense stands which outcompete native species. It can potentially spread long distances via water courses and is drought and cold tolerant, sprouting from basal shoots after dry periods.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Asterales
- Family: Asteraceae
- Genus: Picris
- Species: Helminthotheca echioides
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Two separate species have been combined, with Picris echioides L. now treated as a synonym of Helminthotheca echioides (L.) Holub. In Australasia, specimens of both P. echioides and H. echioides were recorded at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century before the taxonomic revision (Holzapfel, 1994).
DescriptionTop of page
H. echioides is an annual or perennial herbaceous plant which grows up to 1 m tall with a branching structure (Holzapfel, 1994; Vibrans, 2015). It has stiff hairs which are sometimes hooked at their apex. The plant exudes a latex (Vibrans, 2015). The basal leaves are narrowly oblanceolate to elliptic, up to 30 cm long, obtuse to acute at apex, sinuate to toothed at the margin, offset to a base that seems like the petiole, embraces the stem at the base (Vibrans, 2015). Generally, it has a simple taproot but occasionally also has a branched root system (Holzapfel, 1994). It has yellow flowers and yellow or reddish achenes, slightly compressed, wrinkled transversely, abruptly terminated by a nose hair as long as the achene (Tela Botanica, 2016).
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
There is some discrepancy in placement of the original distribution of H. echioides with some sources suggesting it was originally from only the western Mediterranean region (Tremetsberger et al., 2015) and others widening its native range to countries as far east as Russia and Ukraine in Europe, and Azerbaijan and Iran in central Asia (Greuter, 2006; USDA-ARS, 2016). H. echioides is considered introduced, established or naturalized in Australia, Turkmenistan, South Africa, Canada, USA, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay as well as other European countries (Holzapfel, 1994; Greuter, 2006; Stace, 2010; Sîrbu & Oprea, 2013; DAISIE, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2016).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 17 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Belarus||Present||Introduced||Establishment status is ‘Unknown’|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Present||Native|
|Bulgaria||Present||Introduced||Establishment status is ‘Unknown’|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present||Native|
|Finland||Present||Introduced||Establishment status is ‘Unknown’|
|-District of Columbia||Present||1986||Introduced||Naturalized||Naturalized|
|-New South Wales||Present, Widespread||1957||Introduced|
|-South Australia||Present, Widespread||1957||Introduced|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
H. echioides is often associated with disturbed sites in urban and intensive agricultural habitats in the USA and Mexico (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2015; Vibrans, 2015). Specimens collected in Australia are frequently found in public places, which may be partly induced by the application of herbicides (Holzapfel, 1994).
In the USA, it is mostly classified as an obligate upland species which never occurs in wetlands and only in the Arid West region is it classified as rarely occurring in wetlands (USDA-NRCS, 2016).
In France and Corsica, it can be found on the edges of roads and fields and also in waste places (Tela Botnica, 2016). In New Zealand, it has been reported to be a common weed of waste land, pasture, urban areas and forest margins, and can be found in coastal to montane regions (New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, 2016).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Industrial / intensive livestock production systems||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Arid regions||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
H. echioides has a sporophytic count of 10 and a gametophytic count of 5/10 (IPCN Chromosome Reports, 2015).
H. echioides produces heterocarpic fruits with different achenes (Tremetsberger et al., 2015). Flowers are hermaphrodite and the plant is self-fertile. Seeds are often produced apomictically (Plants for a Future, 2012). H. echioides reproduces exclusively by seed (New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, 2016).
It is able to survive dry climates and appears to sprout from basal shoots after dry periods (Holzapfel, 1994).
The flowers are pollinated by bees and flies (Plants for a Future, 2012).
Physiology and Phenology
H. echioides usually flowers and fruits from March to July in the Americas but can also flower and fruit at other times (Vibrans, 2015). According to Plants for a Future (2012), it flowers from June to October and seeds ripen from July to October. In France it flowers from June to September (Tela Botanica, 2016). In New Zealand, it can flower and fruit all year round in warm climates, but otherwise flowers from August to May and fruits from October to July (New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, 2016).
Its ability to sprout from secondary basal shoots after the primary stem has dried out allows it to be classed as perennial (Holzapfel, 1994).
H. echioides can grow in a wide range of soil types and prefers dry or moist soil. It does not grow well in shade but can tolerate frost (Plants for a Future, 2012).
ClimateTop of page
|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)|
|Df - Continental climate, wet all year||Preferred||Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- very alkaline
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
In Crete, it has been noted as being slightly susceptible to disease from the fungus Verticillium dahlia showing Verticillium wilt symptoms (Ligoxigakis et al., 2002)
In experiments, an extract from H. echioides, cloform, acts as a good deterrent for four species of pest insects (Sitophilus granaries – adults, Tribolium confusum – adults and larvae, and Trogoferma granarium – larvae) (Daniewski et al., 1989).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
An investigation, in 1982/83, into weed seeds transported by irrigation water identified H. echioides seeds as present in the largest numbers than any of the other weeds per litre of water and it found that 47% germinated successfully (Tosso et al., 1986).
Seeds are wind dispersed and can attach to clothing, wool and other fibres (New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, 2016).
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
H. echioides is found in fields of alfalfa cultivars as a weed species and is found to have the highest number of seeds of the 11 annual weeds present (Štrbanovic et al., 2014).
It has been recorded in maize fields and in California, USA, it is reported as a problem in orchards (Vibrans, 2015).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
H. echioides grows by forming a dense stand which can outcompete other species when management of land changes reducing pressures holding its growth, such as cessation of grazing in fields in the US (DiTomaso et al., 2013; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014). More specifically, it has been identified as an invasive species which is a threat to Santa Cruz tarplant (Holocarpha macradenia) (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014), a threatened plant (listed by US ESA) in California, USA.
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Holocarpha macradenia (Santa Cruz tarplant)||NatureServe; USA ESA listing as threatened species||California||Antagonistic (micro-organisms); Competition; Competition - shading; Competition - smothering; Interaction with other invasive species||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2014)|
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Reproduces asexually
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of successional patterns
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
In the Mediterranean region, the leaves and stems are cooked and eaten (Boari et al., 2013).
Uses ListTop of page
Human food and beverage
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
The following is provided by the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network (2016):
“The stem and leaf indumentum of oxtongue (Helminthotheca echioides (L.) Holub) has 2-, 3-, 4- or 5-hooked anchor hairs and the hairs of the leaves arise from a conspicuous swollen base. The involucral bracts of the flowers are in two rows, with the five outer involucral bracts ovate to cordate, and the apex of the inner bracts feather-like. Unlike our indigenous oxtongus (Picris spp.) the achenes of the introduced oxtongue (H. echioides) are dimorphic: the outer achenes, are larger, white, and pilose hairy; the inner shorter, dark-brown and glabrous. In our indigenous oxtongues (Picris spp.) the achenes are never heteromorphic.”
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Mowing and grazing regimes could be used to ameliorate the threat to Holocarpha macradenia in California, USA (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014). The addition of solarisation could improve management outcome success as well. An experiment comparing mowing, disking and solarisation on controlling invasive weeds in cool coastal California region showed that only solarisaiton methodology achieved a reduction in the existing invasive weed species and stopped a new invasion of H. echioides because the seed bank of the weed is destroyed as well as the plants (Lambrecht and D’Amore, 2010).
ReferencesTop of page
Boari F; Cefola M; Gioia Fdi; Pace B; Serio F; Cantore V, 2013. Effect of cooking methods on antioxidant activity and nitrate content of selected wild Mediterranean plants. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 64(7):870-876. http://informahealthcare.com/loi/ijf
DAISIE, 2015. Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe. European Invasive Alien Species Gateway. www.europe-aliens.org/default.do
Daniewski WM; Gumu
Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2015. Flora of North America North of Mexico. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=1
Greuter W, 2006. Compositae (pro parte majore). Compositae [ed. by Greuter, W. \Raab-Straube, E. von]. Euro+Med Plantbase - the information resource for Euro-Mediterranean plant diversity.
IPCN Chromosome Reports, 2015. Index to Plant Chromosome Numbers (IPCN), Tropicos website. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://tropicos.org/Project/IPCN
Lambrecht SC; D'Amore A, 2010. Solarisation for Non-native plant control in cool, coastal California. Ecological Restoration, 28(4):424-426.
Missouri Botanical Garden, 2015. Tropicos database. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://www.tropicos.org/
New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, 2016. New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. Wellington, New Zealand. http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/default.aspx
Plants for Future a, 2012. Plants for a Future Database. London, UK. http://www.pfaf.org
Sîrbu C; Oprea A, 2013. A New Contribution on the Vascular Flora of Romania. Acta Horti Botanici Bucurestiensis, 40(1). 19-26.
Stace C, 2010. New Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Strbanovic R; Postic D; Stanisavljevic R; Ðukanovic L; Ivanovic Z; Vasic T; Dolovac N, 2014. The distribution of weeds in natural alfalfa seeds. (Zastupljenost korova u naturalnom semenu lucerke.) Zastita Bilja, 65(2):85-90. http://www.izbis.com/casopis/2014/Zastita-bilja-Vol.65(2)-2014.pdf
Tela Botanica, 2016. Tela Botanica - the French botany network (Tela Botanica - Le reseau de la botanique francophone). Montpellier, France. http://www.tela-botanica.org
Tosso TJ; Ferreyra ER; Munoz SL, 1986. Weed seeds carried by irrigation. Identification, germinating power and distribution of species in an irrigation season. (Semillas de malezas transportadas por el riego. Identificacion, poder germinativo y distribucion de especies, en una temporada de riego.) Agricultura Tecnica, 46(2). 125-129.
Tremetsberger K; Angeles Ortiz M; Terrab A; Balao F; Casimiro-Soriguer R; Talavera M; Talavera S, 2015. Phylogeography above the species level for perennial species in a composite genus. AoB Plants, 8. 1-17.
US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014. Holocarpha macradenia (Santa Cruz tarplant) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. Ventura, California, USA: US Fish and Wildlife Service.
USDA-ARS, 2016. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). National Plant Germplasm System. Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysearch.aspx
USDA-NRCS, 2016. The PLANTS Database. Baton Rouge, USA: National Plant Data Center. http://plants.usda.gov/
Vibrans H, 2015. Weeds of Mexico (Malezas de Mexico). http://www.conabio.gob.mx/malezasdemexico/2inicio/home-malezas-mexico.htm
Wright SD; Roncoroni JA; Miller TL; Prather TS; Ransom CR; Beck KG; Duncan C; Wilson KA; Mann JJ, 2013. Weed Control in Natural Areas in the Western United States., USA: UC Davis Weed Research and Information Center.
CABI Data Mining, 2011. Invasive Species Databases.,
CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI
Celepcİ E, Uygur S, Kaydan M B, Uygur F N, 2017. Mealybug (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) species on weeds in Citrus (Rutaceae) plantations in Çukurova Plain, Turkey. Türkiye Entomoloji Bülteni. 7 (1), 15-21. http://dergipark.gov.tr/download/article-file/315531
Chatzivassiliou E K, Boubourakas I, Drossos E, Eleftherohorinos I, Jenser G, Peters D, Katis N I, 2001. Weeds in greenhouses and tobacco fields are differentially infected by Tomato spotted wilt virus and infested by its vector species. Plant Disease. 85 (1), 40-46. DOI:10.1094/PDIS.2001.85.1.40
DAISIE, 2015. Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe. http://www.europe-aliens.org/
Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2015. Flora of North America North of Mexico., St. Louis, Missouri; Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=1
Greuter W, 2006. (Compositae (pro parte majore). Compositae). In: Euro+Med Plantbase - the information resource for Euro-Mediterranean plant diversity, [ed. by Greuter W, Raab-Straube E von].
Missouri Botanical Garden, 2015. Tropicos database., St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://www.tropicos.org/
Sîrbu C, Oprea A, 2013. A New Contribution on the Vascular Flora of Romania. In: Acta Horti Botanici Bucurestiensis, 40 (1) 19-26.
US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014. Holocarpha macradenia (Santa Cruz tarplant) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation., Ventura, California, USA: US Fish and Wildlife Service.
USDA-ARS, 2016. 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, 2016. The PLANTS Database. Greensboro, North Carolina, USA: National Plant Data Team. https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov
ContributorsTop of page
30/06/2016 Original text by:
Alex Hudson, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK
Distribution MapsTop of page
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