Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Sanchezia speciosa
(shrubby whitevein)



Sanchezia speciosa (shrubby whitevein)


  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Sanchezia speciosa
  • Preferred Common Name
  • shrubby whitevein
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • S. speciosa is a large erect shrub included in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012) and also listed as i...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Sanchezia speciosa Leonard

Preferred Common Name

  • shrubby whitevein

International Common Names

  • English: large-bract sanchezia
  • Spanish: sanchesia, cachimbillo amarillo

Summary of Invasiveness

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S. speciosa is a large erect shrub included in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012) and also listed as invasive in the Cook Islands, Hawaii, Fiji, New Caledonia, and Reunion (Meyer & Lavergne, 2004). The species is also reported to be invasive near streams in Jamaica (Adams, 1972). S. speciosa is commonly planted as an ornamental and can be found naturalized in wet and shady areas in the understory of low elevation wet forests. It grows forming dense covers in the understory of native and secondary wet forests and presumably competing with native species (Meyer and Lavergne, 2004).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Scrophulariales
  •                         Family: Acanthaceae
  •                             Genus: Sanchezia
  •                                 Species: Sanchezia speciosa

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The family Acanthaceae includes about 221 genera and 4000 species widespread in both New and Old World Tropics (Scotland and Vollesen, 2000; Stevens, 2012). Species within this family are herbs or woody shrubs, lianas and trees. The genus Sanchezia is included in the subfamily Ruellieae. This genus is native to the New World and comprises 59 species which are diverse morphologically, ecologically, and geographically (Tripp et al., 2013). Sanchezia species are important horticulturally and are widely planted as street shrubs or living fences (Scotland and Vollesen, 2000; Tripp et al., 2013).


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S. speciosa is a semiwoody evergreen shrub growing up 3 m with smooth bright green or purple stems, large variegated leaves and colourful flowers. Leaves simple, opposite, blade oblong to elliptic, 10-40 cm long, green or with yellow veins. Flowers continuously through the year; flowers several, borne in clusters on an erect terminal spike sometimes divided at the base, with an ovate orange to red bract below each flower cluster. Corolla of fused petals, tubular, 4.5-5.5 cm long with five short, rounded lobes, yellow to orange, bearing oblanceolate orange sepals half as long, two protruding stamens. Fruit a narrowly cylindrical capsule, infrequently formed in cultivation (Whistler, 2000).


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S. speciosa is native to the wet forests of Colombia and Ecuador (USDA-ARS, 2014). It is naturalized in low elevation wet forests in Central America, the Caribbean, and several islands in the Pacific Ocean (Adams, 1972; Meyer and Lavergne, 2004; Acevedo and Strong, 2012; Randall, 2012; PIER, 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.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


IndiaPresentIntroducedFlora of India, 2014Cultivated
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedPaydar et al., 2013Cultivated
SingaporePresentIntroducedChong et al., 2009


MayottePresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
RéunionPresentIntroduced Invasive Meyer and Lavergne, 2004

North America

USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedBlack, 2003Cultivated
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive Parker and Parsons, 2012

Central America and Caribbean

BarbadosPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
CubaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
JamaicaPresentIntroduced Invasive Adams, 1972
MartiniquePresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
PanamaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedSedas et al., 2009
SabaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012

South America

ChilePresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Easter IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Meyer, 2008
ColombiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
EcuadorPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2014
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedCharles Darwin Foundation, 2008


American SamoaPresentIntroduced Invasive Space and Flynn, 2000
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedMcCormack, 2013Listed as “potential invader”
FijiPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith, 1991
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Meyer and Lavergne, 2004
NauruPresentIntroducedThaman et al., 1994Cultivated
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Meyer and Lavergne, 2004
PalauPresentIntroducedLorence and Flynn, 2010
SamoaPresentIntroduced Invasive Space and Flynn, 2002
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedHancock et al., 1988
TongaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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S. speciosa was first introduced to La Réunion from Ecuador in 1866 (Lavergne, 1982), and was reported as “subspontaneous” in the 1940s (Bosser and Heine, 2000). In Fiji this species was introduced in 1886 (Smith, 1991). In Hawaii, S. speciosa was reported as naturalized and becoming invasive in 2010 (Parker and Parsons, 2011). In the Caribbean, it is listed as “casual” and was first collected in 1906 in Cuba, in 1924 in Haiti, and in 1945 in Grenada (US National Herbarium).

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of S. speciosa is high. It has been widely commercialized and cultivated as an ornamental and as a hedge, screen or border plant in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The ability of this species to tolerate shaded conditions and spread vegetatively means that it has the potential to spread much further than it has to date (Meyer and Lavergne, 2004).


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S. speciosa grows best in moist environments. It is present in the understory of native and secondary wet forests, along streams and riverbanks, and in forest edges and disturbed secondary forests at lower elevations (Adams, 1972; Smith, 1991; Meyer and Lavergne, 2004; Parker and Parsons, 2012; PIER, 2014).

Habitat List

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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
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-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural forests Present, no further details Natural
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number reported for the genus Sanchezia is n = 68 (Kaur, 1970). 

Reproductive Biology

S. speciosa blooms almost throughout most of the year and its flowers are visited by birds, principally hummingbirds (Tripp et al., 2013). 

Environmental Requirements

S. speciosa is most commonly found in wet habitats from sea level to about 200 m with warm temperature and high water availability (Smith, 1991). It can grow in both open sunny areas and shaded areas in the understory of native and disturbed forests. It is also tolerant to saline conditions (Black, 2003).


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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 Tolerated < 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])

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 15 35


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall8003000mm; lower/upper limits

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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S. speciosa rarely produces fruits and seeds in cultivation. It spreads vegetatively by stem fragments and cuttings (Meyer and Lavergne, 2004).

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

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S. speciosa is an invasive species that can grow forming dense thickets in the understory of native and secondary low elevation wet forests. Consequently, it is outcompeting native plant species within these forests. In Jamaica, it is invasive in areas near streams and riparian vegetation. This invasive species is impacting principally insular environments across the wet tropics (Meyer and Lavergne, 2004).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately


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S. speciosa is economically important in the horticultural and nursery trade. It is widely commercialized as an ornamental and it is also planted as street shrub, living fence, hedge and border plant (Meyer and Lavergne, 2004; Tripp et al., 2013). Extracts from leaves and stems have been analysed as potential sources of natural anti-oxidants (Paydar et al., 2013).


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

Adams C, 1972. Flowering plants of Jamaica. Mona, Jamaica: University of the West Indies.

Black RJ, 2003. Salt tolerant plants for Florida. Florida, USA: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences.

Bosser J; Heine H, 2000. Flore des Mascareignes, La Réunion, Maurice, Rodrigues, 135. Convolvulacées à Acanthacées ([English title not available]). La Réunion, Mauritius: The Sugar Industry Research Institute.

Charles Darwin Foundation, 2008. Database inventory of introduced plant species in the rural and urban zones of Galapagos. Galapagos, Ecuador: Charles Darwin Foundation.

Chong K; Hugh TW; Corlett RT, 2009. A checklist of the total vascular plant flora of Singapore: native, naturalised and cultivated species., Singapore: Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, 273 pp.

Flora of India, 2014. Flowers of India, Online resources.

Hancock IR; Henderson CP, 1988. Flora of the Solomon Islands. Research Bulletin No. 7. Honiara, Solomon Islands: Dodo Creek Research Station.

Kaur J, 1970. Chromosome numbers in Acanthaceae. Science and Culture, 36:103-106.

Lavergne R, 1982. [English title not available]. (Neufs Fleurs d'Acanthe.) In: Fleurs de Bourbon, Tome 5. Saint-Denis, Réunion: Imprimerie Cazal, 29-42.

Lorence DH; Flynn T, 2010. Checklist of the plants of Palau. Unpublished checklist. Lawai, Hawaii, USA: National Tropical Botanical Garden, 44 pp.

McCormack G, 2013. Cook Islands Biodiversity Database, Version 2007. Cook Islands Biodiversity Database. Rarotonga, Cook Islands: Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust.

Meyer JY, 2008. Report of the expert mission to Rapa Nui, 2-11 June 2008. Strategic action plan to control invasive alien plants on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) (Rapport de mission d'expertise a Rapa Nui du 02 au 11 Juin 2008: Plan d'action strategique pour lutter contre les plantes introduites envahissantes sur Rapa Nui (Île de pâques)). Papeete, Tahiti: Délégation à la Recherche, Ministère de l'Education, l'Enseignement supérieur et la Recherche, 62 pp.

Meyer JY; Lavergne C, 2004. Beautés fatales: Acanthaceae species as invasive alien plants on tropical Indo-Pacific islands. Diversity and Distributions, 10(5/6):333-347.

Parker JL; Parsons B, 2012. New Plant Records from the Big Island for 2010-2011. Bishop Museum Occasional Papers, 113:65-74.

Paydar M; Wong YL; Moharam BA; Wong WF; Looi CY, 2013. In vitro Anti-oxidant and Anti-cancer Activity of Methanolic Extract from Sanchezia speciosa Leaves. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, 16:1112-115.

PIER, 2014. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk. Honolulu, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii.

Randall RP, 2012. A Global Compendium of Weeds. Perth, Australia: Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, 1124 pp.

Scotland RW; Vollesen K, 2000. Classification of Acanthaceae. Kew Bulletin, 55:513-589.

Sedas Ade; Hernández F; Carranza R; Correa M, 2009. Guía de arboles y arbustos del Campus Central de la Universidad de Panamá Dr. Octavio Méndez Pereira ([English title not available])., Panama: Litografía e Imprenta LIL.

Smith AC, 1991. Flora Vitiensis nova: A new flora of Fiji. Lawai, Kauai, Hawai`i. National Tropical Botanical Garden, Volume 5, 626 pp.

Space JC; Flynn T, 2000. Observations on invasive plant species in American Samoa. Honolulu, USA: USDA Forest Service, 51 pp.

Space JC; Flynn T, 2002a. Report to the Government of Samoa on invasive plant species of environmental concern. Honolulu, USA: USDA Forest Service, 83 pp.

Stevens PF, 2012. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website.

Thaman RR; Fosberg FR; Manner HI; Hassall DC, 1994. The flora of Nauru. Atoll Research Bulletin, 392:1-223.

Tripp EA; Daniel TF; Fatimah S; McDade LA, 2013. Phylogenetic relationships within Ruellieae (Acanthaceae) and a revised classification. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 174(1):97-137.

USDA-ARS, 2014. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory.

Whistler WA, 2000. Tropical ornamentals. Portland, Oregon, USA: Timber Press.

Links to Websites

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Catalogue of Seed Plants of the West Indies
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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25/3/2014 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

Distribution Maps

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