Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Sanchezia parvibracteata



Sanchezia parvibracteata (sanchezia)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Sanchezia parvibracteata
  • Preferred Common Name
  • sanchezia
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • S. parvibracteata is a popular ornamental and hedge plant widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It has often been seen spreading from cultivation and can be found naturalized in we...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Sanchezia parvibracteata Sprague & Hutch.

Preferred Common Name

  • sanchezia

Other Scientific Names

  • Sanchezia sprucei var. salvadorensis Donn. Sm.

International Common Names

  • English: shrubby whitevein; small-bract sanchezia
  • Spanish: espinazo de pescado

Local Common Names

  • Tonga: moa

Summary of Invasiveness

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S. parvibracteata is a popular ornamental and hedge plant widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It has often been seen spreading from cultivation and can be found naturalized in wet and shady areas in the understory of wet forests (Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2014). This species grows forming dense covers in the understory of native and secondary wet- and rain-forests where it is oucompeting native plant species (Meyer and Lavergne, 2004). It is a serious threat to native tropical forests in Australia and is now listed as invasive in Australia, Costa Rica, Hawaii, and New Caledonia (Meyer and Lavergne, 2004; Chacon and Saborio, 2012; PIER, 2014). It is also included in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012). 

Taxonomic Tree

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

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 widely commercialized as ornamentals are often planted as street shrubs or living fences (Scotland and Vollesen, 2000). 


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S. parvibracteata is a large herbaceous shrub; stems smooth, subquadrangular, the angles rounded; leaf blades oblanceolate, 12-25 cm long (up to 35 cm) and 5-11 cm wide (up to 15 cm), acuminate, subfalcate, narrowed at the base and decurrent on the petiole, glabrous, undulate or shallowly dentate, puncticulate above, the costa and lateral veins (11 or 12 pairs) prominent beneath, the cystoliths on both surfaces numerous, about 0.5 mm long; inflorescence a sparingly branched terminal panicle up to 20 cm long, and 5 cm broad, the fascicles usually several-flowered, sessile, subsecund, the bracts subtending them triangular-ovate, subconnate, 10 to 12 mm long, about 6 mm wide at base, the bracts subtending the flowers ovate, up to 16 cm long and about 9 mm wide, obtusish, glabrous, ciliolate; bractlets oblanceolate, 15 mm long, about 4 mm wide, sparingly puberulent without, ciliolate, both bracts and bractlets firm, green or yellowish toward tip; calyx 2 cm long, the segments oblanceolate, 4 to 6 mm wide, acutish, glabrous proximally, puberulous distally, ciliolate, yellow; corolla ochre, 4 to 5 cm long, about 5 mm broad immediately above the ovary, about 10 mm in diameter at throat, rather densely pubescent distally with yellowish retrorsely curved hairs, the lower portion glabrous, the lobes oblong, about 6 mm long and 4 mm wide, emarginate; stamens exserted 7 to 8 mm beyond mouth of corolla, the filaments tomentose at and above the insertion, thence sparingly pilose (the hairs up to 1.5 mm long), but distally glabrous, the anthers 6 mm long, 2.5 mm broad, the sacs pubescent, the basal lobes ending in subulate spreading spurs about 1 mm long; staminodes 15 mm long, sparingly pilose, ovary and style glabrous; capsules 11-15 mm long, puburulous, and apical (Leonard, 1958; Daniel, 1995). 


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S. parvibracteata is native to tropical South America including Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador (Daniel, 1995; USDA-ARS, 2014). It is naturalized in wet forests in Australia, Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, and on several islands in the Pacific Ocean (Daniel, 1995; Meyer and Lavergne, 2004; Randall, 2012; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; PIER, 2014). S. parvibracteata can also be found in cultivation in India, the West Indies, and Southeastern Asia (Daniel, 1995; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; Randall, 2012; India Biodiversity, 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


IndiaPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity, 2014Cultivated
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity, 2014Cultivated
-KarnatakaPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity, 2014Cultivated
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity, 2014Cultivated
-West BengalPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity, 2014Cultivated
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedDaniel, 1995

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedDaniel, 1995Cultivated and naturalised
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014Cultivated and naturalised

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentIntroducedDaniel, 1995Cultivated and naturalised
Costa RicaPresentIntroduced Invasive Chacon and Saborio, 2012
Dominican RepublicPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedDaniel, 1995Cultivated and naturalised
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedDaniel, 1995Cultivated and naturalised
HondurasPresentIntroducedDaniel, 1995Cultivated and naturalised
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedDaniel, 1995Cultivated and naturalised
PanamaPresentIntroducedDaniel, 1995Cultivated and naturalised
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012Cultivated and naturalised
Saint LuciaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedGraveson, 2012

South America

BrazilPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2014
ColombiaPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2014
EcuadorPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2014
PeruPresentNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2014
VenezuelaPresentHokche et al., 2008Probably introduced


AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Meyer and Lavergne, 2004
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Queensland Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, 2014
Cook IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Space and Flynn, 2002Cultivated and naturalised
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedHerrera et al., 2010Listed as potentially invasive
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive McKee, 1994
NiuePresentIntroducedSpace et al., 2004Cultivated
PalauPresentIntroducedSpace et al., 2009Cultivated
TongaPresentIntroducedSpace and Flynn, 2001Cultivated

History of Introduction and Spread

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S. parvibracteata has been widely introduced as an ornamental and hedge plant in many tropical and subtropical countries. In Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica it was reported as cultivated and naturalized in the 1950s (Daniel, 2010). In Puerto Rico, it was first reported in a collection made in 1954 in Maricao (US National Herbarium). In Hawaii, it was reported as naturalizing in 2009 in areas near South Hilo (Parker and Parson, 2012). In Australia is known that this species was introduced from Brazil, but the date of introduction is uncertain (Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2014). 

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of S. parvibracteata is high. This species has been commercialized worldwide and cultivated as an ornamental, hedge, screen or border plant. The ability of the 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. parvibracteata prefers to grow in moist to wet environments. It grows in the understory of native and secondary wet forests, rainforests, lowland wet forests, montane forests and along stream margins, riverbanks, forest edges and disturbed secondary wet areas (Daniel, 1995; 2010; Parker and Parsons, 2012; PIER, 2014). In Australia, S. parvibracteata grows forming dense thickets under rainforest edges, especially along creeks and other damp, low-lying areas. Invasions are usually associated with nearby gardens (Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2014). 

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides 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 for S. parvibracteata is unknown, however the chromosome number reported for the genus Sanchezia is n = 68 (Kaur 1970).

Reproductive Biology and Phenology

S. parvibracteata blooms throughout the year and its flowers are visited by birds - principally hummingbirds. In many areas outside its native distribution range, and in cultivation, plants rarely produce fruits. In Central America it was recorded flowering in January-February and fruiting is unknown (Daniel, 1995; 2010).

Environmental Requirements

S. parvibracteata prefers moist and wet habitats from sea level to 800-1000 m. It grows well in warm temperature and in areas with high water availability. This species can grow in both open sunny areas and shaded areas in the understorey of native and disturbed forests (Daniel, 1995; 2010; Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2014).



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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])

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 rainfall8003500mm; lower/upper limits

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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S. parvibracteata rarely produces fruits and spread is primarily vegetatively by stem fragments which can easily take root. Broken stem fragments can be spread by flowing water. The species produces suckers profusely (Meyer and Lavergne, 2004; PIER, 2014; Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2014). 

Impact Summary

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

Environmental Impact

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S. parvibracteata is an invasive species that grows forming dense thickets in the understory of mature and secondary forests principally at low elevations. Consequently, it is outcompeting native plant species within these forests. Sanchezia thickets inhibit the germination and established of native seedlings in the understory of native forests. In Australia, New Caledonia, Hawaii and Costa Rica this species is invading the understory of native forests especially along streams, creeks, and other damp areas generating pronounced ecological impacts (Meyer and Lavergne, 2004; Parker and Parson, 2012; PIER, 2014; Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2014). 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Monoculture formation
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Hybridization
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Prevention and Control

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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.

Physical/Mechanical Control

Seedlings and small plants can be removed manually, ensuring that all stem fragments and roots are removed. Plant pieces should either be bagged and taken to the dump or hung up off the ground to prevent reshooting (Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2014).        

Chemical Control

There is no herbicide currently registered for control of sanchezia in Queensland, but  an off-label use permit allows the use of various herbicides for the control of environmental weeds in non-agricultural areas, bushland and forests (Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2014). 
Specific research on the use of herbicides to control sanchezia has not been undertaken to date (Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2014). 



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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.

Chacón E; Saborío G, 2012. Red Interamericana de Información de Especies Invasoras, Costa Rica ([English title not available]). San José, Costa Rica: Asociación para la Conservación y el Estudio de la Biodiversidad.

Daniel TF, 1995. Acanthaceae. 4. Flora Chiapas [ed. by Breedlove, D. E.]. San Francisco, USA: California Academy of Sciences, 1-158.

Daniel TF, 2010. Catalog of Guatemalan Acanthaceae: taxonomy, ecology, and conservation. Proceedings of the California Academy of Science, 61:289-377.

Graveson R, 2012. The Plants of Saint Lucia (in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean). The Plants of Saint Lucia (in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean).

Herrera K; Lorence DH; Flynn T; Balick MJ, 2010. Checklist of the vascular plants of Pohnpei with local names and uses. Allertonia:146 pp.

Hokche O; Berry PE; Huber O, 2008. Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela (New catalogue of the vascular flora of Venezuela). Caracas, Venezuela: Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela, 860 pp.

India Biodiversity, 2014. Online Portal of India Biodiversity.

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

Leonard EC, 1958. The Acanthaceae of Columbia. Contributions from the U.S. National Herbarium, 31:1-58.

McKee HS, 1994. Catalogue of plants introduced and cultivated in New Caledonia (Catalogue des plantes introduites et cultivees en Nouvelle-Caledonie). Paris, France: National Museum of Natural History, 164 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.

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

Queensland Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, 2014. Sanchezia parvibracteata -- Fact sheet., Australia: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Biosecurity Queensland.

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.

Space JC; Flynn T, 2001. Report to the Kingdom of Tonga on invasive plant species of environmental concern. Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: USDA Forest Service.

Space JC; Flynn T, 2002. Report to the Government of the Cook Islands on invasive plant species of environmental concern. Honolulu, USA: USDA Forest Service, 146 pp,.

Space JC; Lorence DH; LaRosa AM, 2009. Report to the Republic of Palau: 2008 update on Invasive Plant Species. Hilo, Hawaii, USA: USDA Forest Service, 227.

Space JC; Waterhouse BM; Newfield M; Bull C, 2004. Report to the Government of Niue and the United Nations Development Programme: Invasive Plant Species on Niue following Cyclone Heta. 76 pp.

Stevens PF, 2012. Angiosperm Phylogeny Website.

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.

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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23/07/14 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

Distribution Maps

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