Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Crupina vulgaris
(bearded creeper)



Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper)


  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Crupina vulgaris
  • Preferred Common Name
  • bearded creeper
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. vulgaris is a clear example of an invasive species that 'came in under the radar,' undetected for decades after the initial introductions and during its expansion into vast areas of rugged terrain. Although not an aggressive species in its native...

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Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); dense population. Idaho, USA.
CaptionCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); dense population. Idaho, USA.
Copyright©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); dense population. Idaho, USA.
HabitCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); dense population. Idaho, USA.©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); emerging seedlings.
CaptionCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); emerging seedlings.
Copyright©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); emerging seedlings.
SeedlingsCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); emerging seedlings.©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); emerging seedlings are two fleshy oblong cotyledons, 1-3 cm long, with a prominent red central vein when growing in full sun.
CaptionCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); emerging seedlings are two fleshy oblong cotyledons, 1-3 cm long, with a prominent red central vein when growing in full sun.
Copyright©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); emerging seedlings are two fleshy oblong cotyledons, 1-3 cm long, with a prominent red central vein when growing in full sun.
SeedlingsCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); emerging seedlings are two fleshy oblong cotyledons, 1-3 cm long, with a prominent red central vein when growing in full sun.©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); cluster of seedlings from a rodents seed cache.
TitleCluster of seedlings
CaptionCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); cluster of seedlings from a rodents seed cache.
Copyright©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); cluster of seedlings from a rodents seed cache.
Cluster of seedlingsCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); cluster of seedlings from a rodents seed cache.©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); plant at the bolting stage.
TitleBolting stage
CaptionCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); plant at the bolting stage.
Copyright©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); plant at the bolting stage.
Bolting stageCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); plant at the bolting stage.©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); the overwintering stage is a rosette of sessile or petioled basal leaves, that are oblong to obovate, scabrous, and generally desiccated by flowering time.
CaptionCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); the overwintering stage is a rosette of sessile or petioled basal leaves, that are oblong to obovate, scabrous, and generally desiccated by flowering time.
Copyright©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); the overwintering stage is a rosette of sessile or petioled basal leaves, that are oblong to obovate, scabrous, and generally desiccated by flowering time.
RosetteCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); the overwintering stage is a rosette of sessile or petioled basal leaves, that are oblong to obovate, scabrous, and generally desiccated by flowering time.©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); flower.
CaptionCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); flower.
Copyright©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); flower.
FlowerCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); flower.©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); seedhead.
CaptionCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); seedhead.
Copyright©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); seedhead.
SeedheadCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); seedhead.©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); the cypsela on the right is from Crupina crupinastrum and the picture shows the distinguishing characteristic between the two species; the shape of the base of the cypsela, whether it is round (C. vulgaris) or tapered to a sharp edge (C. crupinastrum).
TitleSimilar species
CaptionCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); the cypsela on the right is from Crupina crupinastrum and the picture shows the distinguishing characteristic between the two species; the shape of the base of the cypsela, whether it is round (C. vulgaris) or tapered to a sharp edge (C. crupinastrum).
Copyright©Cindy Roché
Crupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); the cypsela on the right is from Crupina crupinastrum and the picture shows the distinguishing characteristic between the two species; the shape of the base of the cypsela, whether it is round (C. vulgaris) or tapered to a sharp edge (C. crupinastrum).
Similar speciesCrupina vulgaris (bearded creeper); the cypsela on the right is from Crupina crupinastrum and the picture shows the distinguishing characteristic between the two species; the shape of the base of the cypsela, whether it is round (C. vulgaris) or tapered to a sharp edge (C. crupinastrum).©Cindy Roché


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Crupina vulgaris Cass.

Preferred Common Name

  • bearded creeper

Other Scientific Names

  • Centaurea crupina L.
  • Crupina vulgaris Pers.
  • Serratula crupina (L.) Vill.

International Common Names

  • English: bearded-creeper; common crupina; starry scabious
  • French: crupine vulgaire

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Gewöhnlicher Schlüpfsame
  • Italy: crupina comune

EPPO code

  • CJNVU (Crupina vulgaris)

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page C. vulgaris is a clear example of an invasive species that 'came in under the radar,' undetected for decades after the initial introductions and during its expansion into vast areas of rugged terrain. Although not an aggressive species in its native habitats, the mere ability to survive in rough grazing lands of the Mediterranean region bestows attributes enabling invasion into the natural grasslands of western North America. There it contributes to degradation of native plant communities, lower forage production and increased risk of soil erosion.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Asterales
  •                         Family: Asteraceae
  •                             Genus: Crupina
  •                                 Species: Crupina vulgaris

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The genus Crupina comprises three species: vulgaris, crupinastrum, and intermedia.

Couderc-LeVaillant (1984) considered that Crupina vulgaris comprised two varieties, typica and brachypappa. She listed the following synonyms for var. typica: Centaurea crupina L. 1753; Centaurea crupina Pers. 1807; Centaurea acuta Lam. 1778; Serratula crupina Vill. 1789; Crupina pauciflora Hoffm. et Link. 1820; Crupina pauciflora Kar. et Kir. 1842; Crupina acuta Trev. 1842; Crupina vulgaris L. microcephala Ledeb. 1844-1846; Crupina alpestris Arv. 1879; Crupina crupina Karst. 1880-1883; Crupina vulgaris forme alpestris Rouy 1897; Crupina vulgaris var. pseudo-crupinastrum Thellung. 1908; Crupina vulgaris subsp. vulgaris var. typica Beauv. 1912; Crupina vulgaris subsp. vulgaris var. alpestris Beauv. 1912.

Couderc-LeVaillant (1984) listed the following synonyms for Crupina vulgaris var. brachypappa: Crupina brachypappa Jord. et Fourr. 1868; Crupina vulgaris "forme" brachypappa Rouy 1897; Crupina major Goir. 1907; Crupina vulgaris subsp. brachypappa var. brachypappa Beauv. 1912; Crupina vulgaris subsp. brachypappa var vallesiaca Beauv. 1912. These two varieties were mentioned in a subsequent publication (Couderc-LeVaillant and Roché, 1993), but are not accepted in the French or other European floras (Tutin et al., 1976; Guinochet and de Vilmorin, 1987; Bolòs et al., 1993).

Also included in Crupina vulgaris are Crupina pauciflora Kar. & Kir. (NYBG 16782, type specimen collected in Kazakhstan in 1841) and Crupina oligantha Tschern. (in Flora Uzbekistan vi. 387, 1962, (Czerepanov, 1995).


Top of page Crupina vulgaris is a facultative winter annual forb, growing 10 to 60 cm (up to 1 m) from a slender taproot one to several metres deep. Emerging seedlings are two fleshy oblong cotyledons, 1 to 3 cm long, with a prominent red central vein when growing in full sun. The overwintering stage is a rosette of sessile or petioled basal leaves which are oblong to obovate, scabrous, generally desiccated by flowering time. Leaves on stems decrease in size with distance from the rosette, up to the branches which are leafless. Cauline leaves are 1 to 3.5 cm, with linear, minutely toothed lobes. The inflorescence branches in a corymb shape, with the capitula sessile or on peduncles 1 to 3 cm long. The involucre is 8 to 20 mm, with pink to light purple flowers protruding several millimetres. Capitula may bear up to 3 to 8 sterile and 1 to 8 fertile flowers, with a normal combination of two fertile and three sterile flowers. Abortion is common, so that generally only one or two fruits are produced per head. Cypselas are large, weighing 20 to 36 mg, 4 to 5 mm long, shaped like a tapered barrel, with a blackish-brown, 4- to 9-mm-long pappus. Opposite the pappus is the basal hilum with a suborbicular attachment scar.


Top of page The traditional view is that the centre of origin for the subtribe Centaureinae (to which Crupina belongs), is east of the Mediterranean region, from whence it spread to occupy open habitats during the Miocene (Small, 1919; Bremer, 1994). Molecular studies concur with an origin of the genus in the region east of the Mediterranean, with a gradual westward movement during the Neolithic revolution, transported by humans with domestic herds of sheep and goats, and reaching the Iberian Peninsula about 4,000 years ago (Roché et al., 2003). Current native distribution is still centered around the Mediterranean: across southern Europe (Iberian Peninsula, France, Italy, Greece), then across northern Turkey into Asia, where it extends as far east as the Xinjiang Province of China. It was reported as a weed in dry pastures in Russia (Vasil'chenko, 1965). In northern Africa, it grows in Morocco, but C. crupinastrum is more common in the hotter, drier climates (e.g., Algeria and Tunisa, as well as in Lebanon, Egypt, and Israel (Täckholm, 1956; Edgecomb, 1964; Schmida and Ellner, 1983)). Ranges of C. vulgaris and C. crupinastrum overlap in Spain, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, although in each case, C. vulgaris grows on more northern or more mesic sites than C. crupinastrum (Kupicha, 1975; Pignatti, 1982; Gamarra and Roché, 2002). The range of C. vulgaris extends northward to the dry valleys of the Alps in Switzerland, France and Italy, where it is restricted to open grasslands on steep south-facing slopes (Braun-Blanquet, 1961). It probably migrated north into central Europe along with other Mediterranean species with the expansion of the Roman Empire, which removed the forests, creating grasslands which were maintained with fire and grazing of domestic herds (Ellenberg, 1988). Recently, trees and shrubs are returning to these anthropic grasslands, following reduced grazing pressure and C. vulgaris is becoming less common due to modernization of agricultural practices and forest succession.

The distribution map includes a record from Kazakhstan based on the specimen of Crupina vulgaris (given as C. pauciflora; see Taxonomy section) at the New York Botanical Gardens (USA) collected in 1841.

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


AfghanistanPresentNativeRechinger, 1980
ArmeniaPresentNativeRechinger, 1980
AzerbaijanPresentNativeRechinger, 1980
-XinjiangPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2003
Georgia (Republic of)PresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
IranPresentNativeKupicha, 1975; Rechinger, 1980
IraqPresentNativeRechinger, 1980
KyrgyzstanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
LebanonPresentNativePost, 1933
SyriaPresentNativePost, 1933
TajikistanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
TurkeyPresentNativeKupicha, 1975
TurkmenistanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
UzbekistanPresentNativeGarnatje et al., 2002


MoroccoPresentNativeKupicha, 1975

North America

-CaliforniaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Barbe, 1976; Davis and Sherman, 1991; USDA-NRCS, 2002
-IdahoRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Stickney, 1972; Baysinger and Lee, 1980; USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MassachusettsRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-OregonRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Prather et al., 1991; USDA-NRCS, 2002
-WashingtonRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Alverson and Arnett, 1986; USDA-NRCS, 2002


AlbaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
BulgariaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
Czech RepublicPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
FrancePresentNativeCouderc-LeVaillant, 1984
GreecePresentNativeTutin et al., 1976; Polunin, 1987
HungaryPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
ItalyPresentNativePignatti, 1982
MoldovaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
RomaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
Russian Federation
-Southern RussiaPresentNativeCzerepanov, 1995; USDA-ARS, 2003
SlovakiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
SpainPresentNativeBolòs et al., 1993
SwitzerlandPresentNativeBraun-Blanquet, 1961; Lauber and Wagner, 1996
UkrainePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)PresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003


-South AustraliaRestricted distributionIntroduced Not invasive Ising, 1937; Hnatiuk, 1990; Lazarides et al., 1997

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page Crupina vulgaris was reported at Hope Valley, South Australia, in 1936 (Ising, 1937). It was speculated that its seeds had been introduced from Europe years before in machinery packing material when the Hope Valley Reservoir was built. It occupied a small area of about "100 square yards" (Ising, 1937) and no dispersal from this initial location has been reported (Jessop and Toelken, 1986).

The earliest collections of C. vulgaris in the United States are from Massachusetts (Sorrie and Somers, 1999). Specimens at the Harvard University Herbarium collected by C.E. Perkins in 1877 and 1879 from Boston, and South Boston Flats, Suffolk County, Massachusetts indicate that C. vulgaris was introduced in ship's ballast from seaports in the Mediterranean region. A lack of further collections and its absence in contemporary floras of the northeastern USA indicate that it failed to establish, making the collection in Idaho in 1968 (Stickney, 1972), the first discovery of a successful introduction. The next discovery was in 1976 in Sonoma County, California (Barbe, 1976), a population that was declared eradicated in 1982. After that, it was found in 1983 in Chelan County, Washington (Alverson and Arnett, 1986), and in 1987 in Umatilla County, Oregon. It was rediscovered in 1989 in Sonoma County, California, followed by a new discovery in Modoc County, California, in 1990. It was discovered in Wallowa County, Oregon, in 1995, and additional locations along the Snake River Canyon in Nez Perce County, Idaho. The most recent estimates are that C. vulgaris has invaded over 25,500 ha in Idaho, Oregon, California, and Washington (Thill et al., 1999).

Recent research using molecular markers (RAPDs), distribution maps, and historical sleuthing reported that the US populations came from northern Spain with Basque sheepherders, probably between the 1940s and 1970s, decades before their discovery (Garnatje et al., 2002; Roché et al., 2003).

Risk of Introduction

Top of page C. vulgaris is listed as a noxious weed in the USA (USDA-APHIS, 2002), as well as in Canada (Weed Seeds Order, 1986), and several individual US states, including California, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington (USDA-ARS, 2003) although it is only present in a few of these (USDA-NRCS, 2002).


Top of page In southern Europe, C. vulgaris normally grows on calcareous loam or clay loam soils of limestone parent material, and is rarely found, usually as an accidental introduction, on sandy soils or over siliceous (acidic) parent material. While Thero-brachypodion grassland habitats are considered anthropic because they are not natural grasslands, C. vulgaris lacks the prolific seed production and dispersal necessary to be a species of ruderal habitats (recent or repeated soil disturbance). Habitat in Turkey is reported as steppe, open places on uncultivated calcareous or clay soil (Kupicha, 1975).

The climate of invaded habitats in North America ranges from the clearly Mediterranean in the Sonoma Valley, California (Best et al., 1996) to a temperate climate in the mountains of northcentral Washington and northeastern California, USA. The grassland foothills of the Oregon Blue Mountains and canyonlands of Idaho share a semi-arid climate with hot summers and mild winters, but the winters are too cold to be truly Mediterranean (Johnson and Simon, 1987). Soils range from sandy loams from granitic parent material to clay loams with volcanic ash, basalt or andesite parent material. The unifying soil characteristic is low available water capacity, related to one or more of the following: thin soil, steep slope, south-facing aspect, and a high gravel, cobble or stone content in the profile. In addition, all sites are natural grasslands or open woodlands, such as forest steppe or oak savanna. Low available water capacity limits the potential ground cover to an open canopy of grass-dominated vegetation normally less than 30 cm tall.

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page Crupina vulgaris is not normally a weed of crops, but is sometimes found on the margins of cultivated fields, orchards and vineyards, and can persist in dry pastures under some grazing regimes.

Biology and Ecology

Top of page Genetics

Crupina vulgaris and C. crupinastrum are diploid species (2n = 30 and 28, respectively). Couderc-LeVaillant (1984) showed that Crupina intermedia derives from hybridization between the other two species, with its fertility, superior vigour and size resulting from autopolyploidy (2n=58). In this study, artificial crosses between C. vulgaris and the F1 generation of C. intermedia were sterile.

Physiology and Phenology

As seeds are dispersed in mid-summer, an extremely risky time for seedling establishment, germination of fresh seeds is delayed by an after-ripening requirement, which is highest earlier in the season (Zamora, 1988). Cyclic wetting and drying resulted in faster germination of cypsela stored under uniformly dry conditions (Roché, 1996). Seeds germinate following autumn precipitation and grow as rosettes over the winter, utilizing the warmer microclimate at the soil surface. Although growth is relatively slower during the short days and colder temperatures of early to mid-winter, root growth rates increased to 1-2 cm per day after February in Idaho, USA (Roché, 1996).

Thermal time (degree-days), photoperiod, and vernalization were shown to regulate phenological development in C. vulgaris (Roché et al., 1997a). Base temperature was determined to be about 1ºC (Roché et al., 1997b). As a short/long day plant sensitive to vernalization, C. vulgaris initiated flowering sooner with cold temperature/short daylength vernalization followed by long days (Patterson and Mortenson, 1985; Roché et al., 1997a). Thermal time requirements from emergence to bud stage, anthesis, and seed dispersal were 600, 800, and 1150 degree-days, respectively (Roché et al., 1997a). In Idaho, bolting begins in April, followed by flowering from May into June. Earliest seed dispersal at the lowest elevations may begin at the end of May.

Reproductive Biology

Although C. vulgaris is a preferential outcrosser that attracts generalist insect pollinators with pollen and nectar, it is facultatively autogamous (Couderc-LeVaillant, 1984). When conditions are not favourable for pollinators, flowers will self, without notable loss in fecundity (Roché, 1996). Normally one or two seeds are produced per head (Zamora, 1988), from a potential of one to five fertile flowers, with drought stress suggested as a major factor in abortion of the cypselas (Kambitsch, 1983). Zamora (1988) reported a range of 3 to 27 capitula per plant, with an average of only 2.4 to 23 cypsela per plant on a dry grassland site in Idaho. Typical populations of C. vulgaris were about 50 adults plants/m² (Belles et al., 1981) with seed production of about 1,000/m² (Zamora, 1988). The large cypsela size (19-36 mg; 4-5 mm long by 3-4 mm wide, with a 7-9 mm pappus) limits dispersal but leads to a high level of establishment success among seedlings (Roché and Thill, 2001). Like many annual composites, C. vulgaris appears to recruit heavily from newly dispersed seed, rather than from seedbanks. Under natural conditions, 90 to 98% of C. vulgaris seeds germinated the first autumn after production and none were found in the soil seedbank after four years (Zamora and Thill, 1989).

Environmental Requirements

In Idaho and Oregon, the annual precipitation ranges from 300 to 600 mm at infested sites, where the elevation is 300 m to 1100 m, on southeast, south, to west-facing slopes; on other aspects C. vulgaris is limited to shallow rocky soils. In Modoc County, California, C. vulgaris grows on south, southwest to west-facing slopes between 1300 and 1600 m, where annual precipitation is 350 to 450 mm. In Sonoma County, California, annual precipitation at the infested site is 750 mm and the elevation ranges from 100 to 450 m. In Washington the affected site lies on southwest-facing slopes between 330 and 600 m, and receives 700-800 mm annual precipitation.


Crupina vulgaris has been reported in the following plant associations in Europe:
Sedetum caespitosi-Aphanetum cornucopioidis, Aegilopo geniculatae-Carthametum lanati, Medicago rigidulae-Aegilopietum geniculatae, Torili nodosae-Scandicetum australis, Centaureeto-Brachypodietum phoenicoidis, Festuceto-Brachypodietum phoenicoidis, Trifolio-Brachypodietum retusi, Ruteto-Brachypodietum ramosi, Erodio glandulosi-Arenarietum conimbricensis, Allio sphaerocephali-Poetum bulbosa, Brachypodietum ramosi, Phlomido-Brachypodietum (ramosae) retusi, Chaenorrhino subrifolii-Campanuletum fastigiatae, Iberidi-Lavanduletum pedunculatae, Rosmarino-Cistetum ladaniferi typicum, Santolino-Cistetum laurifolii typicum, Frankenio-Salsoletum (genistoidis) webbii, Coridothymo-Phlomidetum almeriensis, Gypsophilo-Centaureetum hyssopifoliae, Teucrio-Thymetum fontqueri, Veronico-Avenetum ibericae, Teucrio-Santolinetum pectinis, Salvieto-Lavanduletum spicae turolense, Lino-Salvietum lavandulaefoliae, Armerio-Salvietum phlomoides, Paronychio-Astragaletum tumidi, Saturejo-Genistetum boissieri, Genisto-Cytisetum fontanesii, Ulici-Genistetum speciosae, Filagini-Vulpietum, Vulpio-Trifolietum, Koelerio-Avenuletum mirandanae, Cleistogeno (serotinae)-Dichanthietum ischaemi, Stipo-Teucrietum montani, and Irido-Brometum erecti.

Invaded sites in North America are all potential natural grassland communities, in Idaho and Oregon primarily Agropyron/Festuca or Agropyron/Poa (Daubenmire, 1970; Tisdale, 1986), but C. vulgaris also occurs in open woodlands where the canopy is open and sparse enough to allow sunlight penetration to the ground. In Sonoma County, California, it grows predominantly on south-facing oak grasslands with dry, steep, well-drained soils (Davis and Sherman, 1991). In Modoc County in northeastern California, it grows in shrub steppe, Artemisia tridentata subsp. wyomingensis/Pseudoroegneria spicata, either with or without a scattered overstorey of Juniperus occidentalis (Sawyer and Keeler-Wolf, 1995).

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -28
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 5 15
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 25 33
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) -9 2


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration212number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall320950mm; lower/upper limits

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aceria balasi Herbivore Inflorescence
Clytie illunaris Herbivore Seeds
Metzneria aprilella Herbivore Seeds
Ornativalva plutelliformis Herbivore Seeds
Ramularia crupinae Pathogen Leaves
Styphlus penicillus Herbivore Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Research was begun in 1992 at the USDA ARS Biological Control of Weeds Laboratory at Montpellier, France. The potential natural enemies listed were identified there and an evaluation of host specificity of the weevil Styphlus penicillus was published (Sobhian et al., 1996). This publication also listed Aceria balasi, Clytie illunaris, Ornativalva plutelliformis, Cochylini sp. and Metzneria aprilella. Ramularia crupinae was subsequently described (Dianese et al., 1996) and found to be host specific (Hasan et al., 1999). No control agents have been approved for release in the USA.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

Propagation is entirely by seeds. The cypselas are too large and heavy for wind dispersal, with an unfavourable ratio of pappus size to seed weight. Cypselas may land a couple of metres from the parent plant by a flicking motion when plants with mature seeds poised in the capitula are disturbed. Fine hygroscopic bristles on the pappus can pull the cypselas through litter and short distances across the soil surface under conditions of fluctuating relative humidity (Pijl, 1972). Not only does the pappus move the cypsela into a favourable microsite for germination, but it also tilts it so that the hilum contacts the soil, reducing the risk of dehydration of the emerging radicle. The pappus may also aid flotation in moving water, although riparian zones are not a major habitat of C. vulgaris.

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

The pappus aids long-distance dispersal by lodging the seeds in fur, wool, hair, fabric or crevices of tyres, screens or other vehicular surfaces (Roché and Thill, 2001). The seeds are attractive to rodents which collect them in food caches. Rodent transport has been documented as far as 15 m (Zamora and Thill, 1989). All ingested seeds passed through digestive tracts of horses, cattle, deer, sheep, and pheasants within 5 days, with subsequent viability ranging up to 81% (in deer) (Thill et al., 1986). Only sheep passed no viable seeds. However, there is no field evidence that these animals feed on mature C. vulgaris heads. External transport, either on wool or in mud clinging to hooves, is more probable. Most seeds consumed by birds are lost to the regeneration pool, as pheasants and quail grind them in a gizzard (the study by Thill et al. (1986) failed to provide grit to the pheasants).

Known Crupina migration vectors in other parts of the world include ballast soil (Sorrie and Somers, 1999), packing material for construction equipment (Ising, 1937), and sheep (Schmida and Ellner, 1983).

Accidental Introduction

Since APHIS has been keeping records on Federal Noxious Weeds (1983-present) in the USA, C. vulgaris has not been intercepted at a border crossing (Roché et al., 2003). If the route of introduction to the USA was with Basque immigrants, then the probability of additional introductions from Europe is low. Redistribution within North America remains highly likely because no containment or control work is being done at most locations.

Intentional Introduction

While C. vulgaris seeds might be carried by recreationists or tourists as a curiosity based on their similarity to a fly fishing 'lure', locations where it grows are generally remote from population centres. It is not cultivated as an ornamental or crop plant.

Wood Packaging

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Wood Packaging not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Loose wood packing material
Processed or treated wood
Solid wood packing material with bark
Solid wood packing material without bark

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production None
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production Negative
Native fauna None
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None


Top of page APHIS prepared an economic analysis of potential impacts for known infestations of C. vulgaris in 1980, estimating the then net value to the USA of eradication to be $2.6 million based on effects on livestock production (Wallace, 1980).

Environmental Impact

Top of page Dense stands of C. vulgaris could exacerbate the risk of erosion on steep slopes in the canyons of the Clearwater, Salmon and Snake River systems in Idaho (Thill et al., 1999). C. vulgaris matures earlier than native perennial grasses or another common invader on these sites, Centaurea solstitialis. Crupina vulgaris is a small plant, leaving far less residual biomass to protect the soil surface after plants desiccate with the summer heat in June. By the time the seeds are dispersed, both the rosette and narrow stem leaves have dried. With autumn rains the brittle stalks shed the shrivelled leaves and empty capitula, so that by winter, few traces of the previous year's growth can be found. This leaves the soil surface exposed to rain splash, increased surface runoff and erosion. Increased erosion on steep slopes in river canyons adds to siltation, which damages fisheries and other resources such as reservoir capacity and 'lifespan' of dams.

Impact: Biodiversity

Top of page Seedlings of C. vulgaris are highly competitive and dense stands can dominate sites, reducing diversity among other species. Although many sites were already degraded from perennial native bunchgrasses to annual exotic species, C. vulgaris has also invaded communities of native forbs and bunchgrasses in the USA. Three sensitive species were mentioned as growing in association with C. vulgaris in Washington: Githopsis specularioides, Pellaea brachyptera, and Spiranthes romanzoffiana var. porrifolia (USDA Forest Service, 1991).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control


Top of page The nutritional value of C. vulgaris was reported to be similar to that of Bromus tectorum, a common associate on Canyon grasslands in Idaho, USA (Thill et al., 1987). It is readily grazed by sheep, but is less palatable to cattle than associated annual grasses. When grazed by cattle in late winter and spring, annual grass cover decreases as weedy forbs increase. As a tap-rooted forb, C. vulgaris is less effective in binding the soil than fibrous-rooted grasses, even annual grasses. Thus, a shift from shallow rooted, early maturing weedy grasses to deep tap-rooted forbs changes the soil hydrological cycle by decreasing infiltration and increasing extraction of water from lower in the profile. In arid regions, this can reduce soil moisture availability in the following growing season.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page To a casual observer all three species of Crupina are easily mistaken for each other. In the field, C. vulgaris and C. crupinastrum are most readily distinguished by the shape of the hilum on the cypsela. The cypsela of C. crupinastrum is compressed and sharply keeled, with a lateral, narrowly elliptic attachment scar. The cypsela of C. vulgaris is cylindrical, with a basal, suborbicular attachment scar. See illustrations in Pignatti (1982) and Reed (1977). Cypselas of C. intermedia are larger, slightly compressed, with an oval, slightly off-centre hilum (Couderc-LeVaillant, 1984).

In the laboratory, vegetative specimens can be distinguished based on trichome shape. C. vulgaris has short, highly branched trichomes in contrast to the long, smooth, unbranched trichomes of C. crupinastrum (Couderc-LeVaillant, 1984).

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.

Cultural Control

Despite reports that it is unpalatable to livestock in North America (Gunn and Faul, 1979; Miller and Thill, 1983; Thill et al., 1985), C. vulgaris is highly favoured by sheep and goats in the Mediterranean region. Grazing by sheep could never be an eradication option (as demonstrated by the persistence of sparse populations under extreme grazing pressure in the Mediterranean region), but it could be used for suppression of extensive populations. Sheep may selectively graze C. vulgaris more than associated native grasses, but grazing must be properly timed to prevent dispersal of weed seeds.

Many of the invaded areas were already degraded to weedy annual grasses prior to introduction of C. vulgaris. Conversion to perennial grasses, either native or introduced, is a potential long-term solution to reducing the competitive status of C. vulgaris and reducing reinvasion by it and other exotic annuals. The main limitations are in establishing the perennial species from seed on remote, steep, rocky canyonlands. On such sites the primary consideration is for ecological stability, not forage yield or weed control, and species selection should reflect this (Thill et al., 1999). Good choices in northern Idaho include bunchgrasses like the fine-leaf Festuca species (F. idahoensis, F. trachyphylla [F. brevipila], F. ovina) because they develop extensive fibrous root systems that stabilize the soil and inhibit weed seedling establishment. Although slow to establish, they persist under semi-arid conditions (Thill et al., 1999). On gentler slopes with deeper soils that permit cultivation, rhizomatous or higher-yielding forage grasses can be established. Grazing should be timed to maximize competitiveness of the forage plants by restricting light to the annual weed seedlings during their winter establishment period.

Fire has not been demonstrated as an effective control method, and C. vulgaris populations increased in response to nutrient release and more light at the soil surface following wildfire at Lake Chelan in Washington, USA (M. Lenz, USDA Forest Service, Chelan Ranger District, USA, personal communication, 2003).

Mechanical Control

Tillage operations commonly used for annual cropping systems normally prevent establishment of C. vulgaris, which is not strongly competitive in situations where it is shaded by taller crops. It is easily pulled by hand, a method practical only for small infestations. Plants should be removed every 3 to 4 weeks during the spring to ensure complete removal prior to seed maturity. If the goal is eradication, sites must be inspected for at least 3 years after the last year of seed production, to ensure that no seeds or plants have escaped (Thill et al., 1999).

Chemical Control

In the USA, effective herbicides registered for rangeland and pasture use to control C. vulgaris include picloram, clopyralid, dicamba, and 2,4-D (Thill et al., 1999). When only one application can be made, picloram has been the best treatment because residual activity controls seedlings emerging up to 2 years later (Zamora et al., 1989). Picloram can be applied in the autumn but its use is limited by adverse effects to non-target vegetation, including sensitive crops, and restrictions around water. Most herbicide treatments are most effective from early spring when plants are still rosettes through to the early bolting stage (usually before May). Although seed persistence on the soil is relatively short (approximately 32 months, Prather et al., 1991), follow-up treatment of escaped plants is necessary for complete control. Glyphosate may be used near water, but is less effective and is not recommended for use on steep slopes where C. vulgaris commonly grows because non-selective control leaves sites vulnerable to erosion.

Biological Control

No biological control agents have been approved for release, although research has begun on potential agents (Dianese et al., 1996; Sobhian et al., 1996; Hasan et al., 1999).

Integrated Control

C. vulgaris populations are limited in extent and except for the canyon grasslands of north-central Idaho, USA, highly localized. Containment and prevention remain highly important strategies, which are practical because C. vulgaris does not move rapidly along transportation corridors or other traditional weed dispersal routes.

The best combination of control tactics will depend on the size of the infestation, degree of control desired, and attributes of the site such as topography, accessibility, and associated vegetation. Options on much of the affected area are limited by steep, rocky terrain, shallow soils, remoteness from vehicle access, and low economic returns (Burnworth, 1991).


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Links to Websites

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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.

Distribution Maps

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