Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Rytidostylis carthagenensis



Rytidostylis carthagenensis


  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Rytidostylis carthagenensis
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • R. carthagenensis is a vine which is native to South and Central America. It is only reported as invasive in Cuba, without details about its invasiveness or distribution (Ovie...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Rytidostylis carthagenensis (Jacq.) Kuntze

Other Scientific Names

  • Cyclanthera carthagenensis (Jacq.) H.Schaef. & S.S.Renner
  • Cyclanthera quinqueloba (Kuntze) H.Schaef. & S.S.Renner
  • Elanterium gracile var. ottonianum Cogn.
  • Elaterium amazonicum Mart. Ex Cogn.
  • Elaterium carthagenense Jacq.
  • Elaterium carthagenense var. cordatum (Hook.f.) Svenson
  • Elaterium ciliatum Cogn.
  • Elaterium ciliatum var. major Cogn.
  • Elaterium cordatum Hook.f.
  • Elaterium gracile (Hook. & Arn.) Cogn.
  • Elaterium gracile var. triloba Cogn.
  • Elaterium gracile var. trilobum Cogn.
  • Elaterium longiflorum Cogn.
  • Elaterium macrophyllum Standl. & Steyerm.
  • Elaterium quinquelobum Cogn.
  • Elaterium trilobatum Schltdl.
  • Rytidostylis amazonica (Mart. Ex Cogn.) Kuntze
  • Rytidostylis ciliata (Cogn.) Kuntze
  • Rytidostylis cordata (Hook.f.) Kuntze
  • Rytidostylis gracilis Hook. & Arn.
  • Rytidostylis macrophylla (Standl. & Steyerm.) Dieterle
  • Rytidostylis quinqueloba (Cogn.) Kuntze
  • Rytidostylis triloba (Schltdl.) Kuntze

Local Common Names

  • Colombia: asusta viejos; espanta muchachos
  • Costa Rica: chanchitos
  • El Salvador: asusta muchachos; chanchitos; cochinilla; sustos; tunquitos
  • Guatemala: anillito; cochinito; quiamul; sandia de ratón
  • Panama: gallotillo; naibe wagedu; norbo cimarrón
  • Venezuela: asusta muchachos

Summary of Invasiveness

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R. carthagenensis is a vine which is native to South and Central America. It is only reported as invasive in Cuba, without details about its invasiveness or distribution (Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Violales
  •                         Family: Cucurbitaceae
  •                             Genus: Rytidostylis
  •                                 Species: Rytidostylis carthagenensis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Cucurbitaceae is a family of about 134 genera and 950-980 species; mainly herbaceous climbers and woody lianas from tropical and subtropical regions. Rytidostylis is a genus from the Neotropics that according to Wunderlin (1978) is in need of revision due to poor delimitation of species. Schaefer and Renner (2011) had proposed a new classification of the Cucurbitaceae, based on molecular and morphological data and included Rytidostylis within Cyclanthera, which are sister groups in the phylogeny. This compendium follows The Plant List (2013) and the use of R. carthagenensis as the accepted name.

The name Rytidostylis comes from the compound Greek word “rytis” for net and “stylos”, for style, referring to the reticulate nature of the style. The epithet carthagenensis refers to the type locality of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia (Delascio-Chitty and López, 2007).

Three names associated to the species are unresolved: Cyclanthera quinqueloba, Elanterium carthagenense var. cordatum and Elanterium cordatum (The Plant List, 2013).


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The following description is from Wunderlin (1978):

Vines, stems, pubescent to glabrate. Leaves cordate to suborbicular, 6-8(-12) cm long, 5-7(-9) cm wide, entire, 3- to 5-angulate, or 3- to 5-lobate, the apex of the lobes acute to acuminate, the base cordate, minutely and remotely to conspicuously dentate, submembranaceous to chartaceous, the upper surface scabrous on the veins, minutely postulate; petioles 1-6 cm long, pubescent to glabrate; tendril 2- to 3-branched, rarely simple, puberulent to glabrate. Staminate inflorescences axillary, long pedunculate to subssesile subumbelloid racemes, the rachis (if well developed) slender, to 20 cm long; pedicels filiform, 3-8 mm long. Staminate flowers greenish, white, or yellow; calyx tube elongate cylindric, 2-3 cm long, the lobes ca. 1 mm long, setose, glabrate; corolla lobes lanceolate or linear lanceolate, acuminate, spreading, the outer surface glabrous, the inner densely papillose; stamens subequalling the calyx tube, the filaments filiform, connate, glandular papillose at the base, sparsely villous to glabrate toward the middle, glabrous at the apex, the staminal column truncate or subcapitate at the apex. Pistillate flowers solitary, axillary, subsessile or with the peduncle to 1 cm long, the calyx and the corolla as in the staminate flowers; ovary obliquely ovoid, echinate, the ovules ascending, the styles slightly shorter than the hypanthium tube, densely papillose on the lower half, the stigmas connate, forming an oblong capitate head. Fruits green, obliquely ovoid, slightly compressed, 2.0-4.0 cm long, 1.2-2.0 cm wide, with bristles to 5 mm long, elastically dehiscent; seeds 12-16, tan, broadly ovate, 6-10 mm long, 5-8 mm wide, compressed, winged marginally on the lower 2/3, 3-dentate at the apex.

Plant Type

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Seed propagated
Vine / climber


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R. carthagenensis is reported as native from southern Mexico to Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Peru (Wunderlin, 1978). Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012) report the species as native to Cuba, although it is considered as introduced by Oviedo Prieto et al. (2012). The type locality for the species is Cartagena de Indias, Colombia (Howard, 1973).

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

North America

MexicoPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Chiapas, Nayarit, Oaxaca

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Guanacaste, Heredia, Limón, Puntarenas, San José
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
El SalvadorPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Ahuachapán, Cabañas, Chalatenango, La Libertad, Santa Ana, Sonsonate
GuatemalaPresentNativeCampos Oliva, 2003
HondurasPresentNativeDuery Salek, 2001; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
PanamaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Bocas del Toro, Canal Area, Chiriquí, Coclé, Colón. Darién, Los Santos, Panamá, San Blas

South America

BoliviaPresentNativeHassler, 2016Santa Cruz
BrazilPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-AmapaPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-AmazonasPresentNativeHassler, 2016
-BahiaPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-CearaPresentIntroducedHassler, 2016
-MaranhaoPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Mato GrossoPresentIntroducedSasaki et al., 2008Over vegetation at river margin
-ParaPresentIntroducedHassler, 2016
-PernambucoPresentNativeFlora do Brasil, 2016
ColombiaPresentNativeHassler, 2016Antioquia, Chocó, Cundinamarca, Magdalena, Meta, Putumayo
EcuadorPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016El Oro, Esmeraldas, Galapagos, Guayas, Loja, Los Ríos, Manabí, Pichincha
French GuianaPresentNativeHassler, 2016
PeruPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
VenezuelaWidespreadNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Amazonas, Anzoátegui, Aragua, Carabobo, Cojedes, Delta Amacuro, Distrito Federal, Falcón, Guárico, Miranda, Monagas, Portuguesa, Sucre, Yaracuy, Zulia

History of Introduction and Spread

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There is no information available for the introduction or spread of R. carthagenensis in Cuba, or details of its distribution in its native range. Although it is used in its native range as a vegetable, the species is not cultivated, being used from the wild (Chizmar Fernández, 2009). Possibly it could spread from food preparation waste. 


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R. carthagenensis is reported for tropical dry forests, river margins, forests with a low canopy and in disturbed sites; from near sea level to 2000 m (Krings, 1999; Pérez-García et al., 2001; Sasaki et al., 2008; Monge-Nájera and Pérez-Gómez, 2010; Rodríguez M et al., 2012; David et al., 2014).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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R. carthagenensis flowers and fruits from June to October (Chizmar Fernández, 2009).


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
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])

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
17 20

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 20 35

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Diaphania nitidalis Herbivore Inflorescence not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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R. carthagenensis is reported as being eaten by beetles, bugs and the butterfly Diaphoniantidalis sp. (Recinos Ramos, 2013).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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R. carthagenensis is reported as consumed by birds and mammals by Delascio-Chitty and López (2007), which might be acting as dispersers of seeds.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Digestion and excretionFruits consumed by birds and small mammals Yes Delascio-Chitty and López, 2007
DisturbanceFound at disturbed sites and margins of forests and rivers Yes Sasaki et al., 2008
People foragingFruits used for food in Central America Yes Chizmar Fernández, 2009

Impact Summary

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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
  • Has a broad native range


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The fruits, flowers and stems of R. carthagenensis are eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable (Wunderlin, 1978; Delascio-Chitty and López, 2007; Chizmar Fernández, 2009). The leaves are used to make infusions to treat fever (Delascio-Chitty and López, 2007). The species is reported by Hellmuth (2011) to be used as a vegetable by the Maya. It is used in El Salvador to prepare one of the typical national dishes “pupusas de cochinilla” (Chizmar Fernández, 2009).

Uses List

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Human food and beverage

  • Vegetable

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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The Cucurbitaceae family is difficult to identify to species level without flowers and/or fruits (Wunderlin, 1978). R. carthagenensis could be confused with Cucumis dipsaceus, which also has spiny fruits which are ellipsoid to globose, turning pale yellow when mature (Acevedo-Rodríguez, 2005). 

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Almost no information is available about the invasiveness of R. carthagenensis, the effect of the species on habitats, other species affected or its environmental requirements. Also, little information is available on the biology of the species.


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Acevedo-Rodríguez P, 2005. Vines and climbing plants of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium, 51:483 pp.

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.

Campos Oliva JR, 2003. Contenido de macronutrientes, minerales y carotenos en plantas comestibles autóctonas de Guatemala ([English title not available]). Guatemala, Guatemala: Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.

Chizmar Fernández C, 2009. Plantas comestibles de Centroamérica ([English title not available])., Costa Rica: Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, INBio, 360 pp.

David-H H, Díaz-V O, Urrea LM, Cardona-N F, 2014. Guía ilustrada flora Cañón del río Ponce, Antioquia ([English title not available]). Medellín, Colombia: EPM E.S.P. Universidad de Antioquia, Herbario Universidad de Antioquia, 264 pp.

Delascio-Chitty F, López R, 2007. Cucurbits of Cojedes State, Venezuela. (Las cucurbitáceas del estado Cojedes, Venezuela.) Acta Botanica Venezuelica, 30(1):19-41.

Duery Salek S, 2001. Caracterización del bosque seco de la comunidad de Oropolí, Honduras. Proyecto especial del programa de Ingeniero Agrónomo ([English title not available]). Zamorano, Honduras: El Zamorano.

Encyclopedia of Life, 2016. Encyclopedia of Life.

Flora do Brasil, 2016. Brazilian Flora 2020 in construction.

Hassler M, 2016. World Plants: Synonymic Checklists of the Vascular Plants of the World. Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life.

Hellmuth NM, 2011. Maya ethnobotany complete inventory: fruits, nuts, root crops, construction materials, utilitarian uses, sacred plants, sacred flowers, Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras. In: Asociación Flaar Mesoamericana, Annual report, 5th edition. 79 pp.

Howard RA, 1973. The enumeratio and selectarum of Nicolaus Von Jacquin (Journal of the Arnold Arboretum), 54:435-470.

Krings A, 1999. An annotated preliminary checklist of the dicotyledonous lianas and vines from the Las Cruces Biological Station, Costa Rica. Sida, Contributions to Botany, 18:1247-1258.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016. Tropicos database. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden.

Monje-Nájera J, Pérez-Gómez G, 2010. Urban vegetation change after a hundred years in a tropical city (San José de Costa Rica). Revista de Biología Tropical, 58(4):1367-1386.

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.

Pérez-García EA, Meave J, Gallardo C, 2001. Vegetation and flora of the Nizanda region, Itsmo de Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, México. (Vegetación y flora de la región de Nizanda, Itsmo de Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, México.) Acta Botánica Mexicana, 56:19-88.

Recinos Ramos HM, 2013. Determinación del análisis fitoquímico preliminar y proximal de las flores y tallo joven de Yucca guatemalensis (Izote) y Rytidostylis gracilis (Cochinito) ([English title not available]). San Salvador, El Salvador: Universidad de El Salvador.

Rodríguez-M GM, Banda-R K, Reyes-B SB, Estupiñán González AC, 2012. [English title not available]. (Lista comentada de las plantas vasculares de bosques secos prioritarios para la conservación en los departamentos de Atlántico y Bolívar (Caribe colombiano).) Biota Colombiana, 13(2):8-258.

Sasaki D, Zappi D, Milliken W, 2008. Vegetação do Parque Estadual Cristalino, Novo Mundo - MT ([English title not available]). 53 pp.

Schaefer H, Renner SS, 2011. Phylogenetic relationships in the order Cucurbitales and a new classification of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). Taxon, 60(1):122-138.

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

Wunderlin RP, 1978. Flora of Panama, Part IX. Family 182. Cucurbitaceae. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 65(1):285-366.


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03/06/2016 Original text by:

Jeanine Vélez-Gavilán, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez

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