Cryptostegia grandiflora (rubber vine)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Cryptostegia grandiflora Robx. ex R.Br.
Preferred Common Name
- rubber vine
Other Scientific Names
- Nerium grandiflorum Roxb.
International Common Names
- English: India rubber vine; Palay rubber vine; purple allamanda
- Spanish: canario morado; caucho de la India; flor de estrella
- French: caoutchouc de Maurice; cauthouc; liane de gatope
Local Common Names
- Cuba: estrella del norte; palo salomon
- Curaçao: palu di lechi
- Dominican Republic: bejuco de caucho; caucho; palo de caucho
- Haiti: caoutchouc
- Madagascar: lombiry
- Mexico: bejuco; caucho
- New Caledonia: liane de gatope
- CVRGR (Cryptostegia grandiflora)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
C. grandiflora is a highly invasive weed in semi-arid natural ecosystems, especially dry or monsoonal rainforest. It has the potential to spread much further, especially in Australia where it poses a threat to national parks. The historical evidence suggests that there is a significant lag period before the plant assumes an invasive status. Thus, those countries where the plant has been cultivated as an ornamental or as a crop, but where it has not yet become invasive, are at future risk of invasion.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Gentianales
- Family: Apocynaceae
- Genus: Cryptostegia
- Species: Cryptostegia grandiflora
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The family Asclepiadaceae was separated from Apocynaceae on the basis of the specialized pollen-transfer systems but Mabberley (1997) considers that this family should now be re-included in the monophyletic family Apocynaceae. The taxonomic authority is frequently quoted as C. grandiflora R.Br., but Marohasy and Forster (1991) concluded that Roxburgh was first to propose the specific epithet in 1814, as Nerium grandiflorum (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003), and that Brown used this unpublished name when he designated C. grandiflora as a type of the genus Cryptostegia (Brown, 1819). It is characterised by and distinguished from related genera by the stamens being concealed within the corolla tube. Ironically, the type was described from India, although Cryptostegia is an endemic genus of Madagascar. Presumably, botanical material was transferred to India when Madagascar was a trade partner of the British in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
DescriptionTop of page
C. grandiflora is a perennial woody climber or vine, which can also grow as a sub-shrub in open situations, with milky-white latex. Stems with numerous small lenticels; slender and twining around each other or supporting plants. Rapid elongation of the shoots during favourable conditions results in long, unbranched whips, up to 5 m long, with green smooth bark. Old vines can climb 20-30 m into the upper storey canopy, with thick stems and scaly, greyish-brown bark. Roots robust, reddish-brown and which can penetrate up to 12 m; producing yellow, fibrous feeding roots. Leaves glossy, dark green, glabrous, paler green below, in well separated pairs, up to 10 cm long, 2-3 cm wide; tip acute narrowing abruptly at the base into a short stalk with a prominent reddish-purple midvein. Inflorescence a cyme of 1-2 fascicles. Flowers large and showy, white internally, pinkish-white to lilac externally; corolla funnel- or trumpet-shaped, 5-6 cm long, 5-8 cm diameter, with 5 pointed, broadly spreading lobes. Corolline corona of 5 bilobed filaments in throat of tube. Staminal column 2-3 mm long, 3-4 mm wide. Style head conical, 3.5 x 2.5 mm; ovaries 4 x 2 mm. Fruits (follicles), large green pods, 10-15 x 3-4 cm, produced in pairs horizontally opposed and diverging from the tip of a short common stalk; sharply 3-angled and tapering to a long beak. Pod containing 200-350 large (5-10 x 1.5-3 mm), ovate, brown seeds with a tuft (coma) of long (19-38 mm), fine, silky-white hairs at one end.
Plant TypeTop of page Broadleaved
Vine / climber
DistributionTop of page
Due to its large showy flowers, C. grandiflora is now being widely advertised on horticultural websites; hence the name of commerce, purple Allamanda (a popular ornamental vine of South American origin). Although listed as C. grandiflora, the 'purple' epithet strongly suggest that this is C. madagascarienesis and not C. grandiflora. It is likely, therefore, that this species has a much wider geographical distribution than the official records suggest.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Planted||Reference||Notes|
|India||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Gujarat||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003|
|-Indian Punjab||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Mohendru, 1943|
|-Madhya Pradesh||Present||Smita and Rai, 2004|
|-Maharashtra||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003|
|-Rajasthan||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Lee et al., 1986|
|-Tamil Nadu||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Ghate, 1945|
|-Uttar Pradesh||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Griffith, 1944; Singh et al., 1993|
|Singapore||Localised||Introduced||Chong et al., 2009||Cultivated|
|Taiwan||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Deighton, 1976|
|Botswana||Present||Introduced||Witt and Luke, 2017||Naturalized|
|Egypt||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992|
|Ethiopia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Mekonnen, 1994; Witt and Luke, 2017|
|Madagascar||Restricted distribution||Native||Not invasive||Natural||Marohasy and Forster, 1991|
|Mauritius||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992|
|Morocco||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992|
|Namibia||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003|
|Tanzania||Present||Introduced||Witt and Luke, 2017||Naturalized|
|Zambia||Present||Introduced||Witt and Luke, 2017||Naturalized|
|Bermuda||Present||Introduced||Britton, 1918||Reported in Britton's Flora of Bermuda as escaped from cultivation|
|Mexico||Present||Introduced||Invasive||van Devender et al., 1997; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003; Davidse et al., 2012||Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatan, Baja California|
|USA||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Arizona||Present||Introduced||Invasive||van Devender et al., 1997|
|-California||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992|
|-Florida||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||USDA-NRCS, 2002; Wunderlin and Hansen, 2012|
|-Hawaii||Restricted distribution||Introduced||Invasive||Stalpes et al., 2000; PIER, 2012|
Central America and Caribbean
|Bahamas||Present||Introduced||Britton and Millspaugh, 1920||Escaped from cultivation|
|Belize||Present||Introduced||Balick et al., 2000|
|Cuba||Present||Introduced||1915||Invasive||Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003; González-Torres et al., 2012||Date of introduction is taken from collections housed in the Smithsonian Herbarium|
|Curaçao||Widespread||Introduced||1914||Invasive||Boldingh, 1914; Anon., 2002|
|Dominican Republic||Present||Introduced||1910||Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012||Date of introduction is taken from collections housed in the Smithsonian Herbarium|
|Grenada||Present||Introduced||1924||Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012||Date of introduction is taken from collections housed in the Smithsonian Herbarium|
|Haiti||Present||Introduced||1910||Fennel, 1944; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Smithsonian Institution, 2012||Date of introduction is taken from collections housed in the Smithsonian Herbarium|
|Honduras||Present||Introduced||Davidse et al., 2012|
|Jamaica||Present||Introduced||1886||Adams, 1972||Date of introduction is taken from collections housed in the Smithsonian Herbarium|
|Panama||Present||Introduced||Correa et al., 2004||Darién|
|United States Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Oakes and Butcher, 1962|
|Argentina||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003|
|Brazil||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Bahia||Present||Introduced||Forzza et al., 2012||Sub-spontaneous. Amazonia and Caatinga|
|-Mato Grosso do Sul||Present||Introduced||Forzza et al., 2012||Sub-spontaneous. Amazonia and Caatinga|
|-Para||Present||Introduced||Forzza et al., 2012||Sub-spontaneous. Amazonia and Caatinga|
|-Piaui||Present||Introduced||Forzza et al., 2012||Sub-spontaneous. Amazonia and Caatinga|
|-Rio Grande do Norte||Present||Introduced||Forzza et al., 2012||Sub-spontaneous. Amazonia and Caatinga|
|Colombia||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003|
|Ecuador||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Galapagos Islands||Present||Introduced||Charles Darwin Foundation, 2008||Cultivated in Galapagos Islands (St. Cruz Island)|
|Peru||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003|
|Venezuela||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003|
|Australia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Australian Northern Territory||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Marohasy and Forster, 1991; Australian Weeds Committtee, 2012|
|-Queensland||Widespread||Introduced||1875||Invasive||McFadyen & Harvey, 1990; Marohasy and Forster, 1991; Australian Weeds Committtee, 2012|
|-Victoria||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Australian Weeds Committtee, 2012|
|Fiji||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Meyer, 2000; PIER, 2012|
|French Polynesia||Present||Introduced||Florence et al., 2011||Cultivated|
|Guam||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Stone, 1970; PIER, 2012|
|Marshall Islands||Present||Introduced||Not invasive||Fosberg et al., 1979; PIER, 2012|
|New Caledonia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Meyer, 2000; PIER, 2012|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Present||Introduced||Fosberg et al., 1979; PIER, 2012||Saipan Island|
|Solomon Islands||Present||Introduced||PIER, 2012||Guadalcanal Island|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Based on the type being described from India in 1819, it is most likely that the plant was introduced into botanical gardens throughout the British tropical colonies during the latter part of the 1700s and the early part of the 1800s when the British had a strong influence in Madagascar. According to Tomley (1995), C. grandiflora was listed in the records of the Brisbane botanic gardens, published in 1875, although Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992) concluded that it was probably present in Australia in the 1860s, specifically cultivated as an ornamental in the mining districts of north and central Queensland. There are anecdotal reports that it was used to cover and stabilize the mine spoil tips, and that subsequently, it became naturalized and weedy by the early 1900s (White, 1917). By the 1940s, its invasiveness had been recognized since attempts were made to eradicate it from public land (Tomley, 1995). Apparently, C. grandiflora was first introduced into Curação during the First World War for the purpose of latex production (Anon., 2002), but it was the period leading up to the Second World War when the plant was widely distributed throughout the drier tropics and sub-tropics for this purpose (Nath, 1943; Jenkins, 1943).
For the West Indies, C. grandiflora appears reported for the first time in an 1886 collection made by J. Hart in Jamaica (Smithsonian Herbarium). Later, this species appears reported as a “cultivated plant” by I. Boldingh in 1914 for the islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire (Boldingh, 1914). Collections at the US herbarium (Smithsonian) document the occurrence of this species for the Dominican Republic in 1910 and for Cuba in 1915. C. grandiflora has been reported in error by Acevedo-Rodriguez (2005) and by Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012) for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, based on misidentifications of C. madagascariensis. It was also reported by N.L. Britton and C.F. Millspaugh for the Bahamas in 1920 as “escaped from cultivation”.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Further inter-continental spread is unlikely as a trade contaminant. However, outside of Australia, there is no legislation concerning the sale and movement of C. grandiflora within and between countries, and thus there is a risk of further long-distance spread. In Australia, C. grandiflora is a declared plant under the provisions of the Rural Lands Protection Act in Queensland, and rated as Category P3, requiring that an area of infestation must be reduced. It is also declared noxious in the Northern Territory as a Class C weed, meaning that it should not be introduced; whilst in Western Australia, it is classed as a P2 weed and must be destroyed.
HabitatTop of page
In its native range of south-west Madagascar, C. grandiflora occurs as a riverine plant, especially as a climber in the upper storey of gallery forests. It is also found as a sprawling shrub along gullies, creeks, as well as disturbed areas such as roadside ditches where run-off water accumulates, around waterholes and at the edge of coastal salt marshes (Marohasy and Forster, 1991). In its introduced range in north Queensland, Australia, it is now a common and highly invasive component of dry rain forest and of the fringing riverine vegetation, as well as flood plains from where it invades grazing land; mainly in the tropical to subtropical 500-1400 mm annual rainfall zone. It also invades the drier Gulf country where annual precipitation is as low as 400 mm, but cannot compete in the wet tropical coastal areas (McFadyen and Harvey, 1990; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Tomley, 1995). In Curação, it has invaded the dry, hilly national park, smothering indigenous cacti (Anon., 2002).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial – Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
C. grandiflora is not a weed of agricultural crops but can smother and out-compete both wild and pasture grasses being a serious weed of pastures. It also invades and disrupts indigenous forest systems (Tomley, 1995).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Putative hybrids formed between C. grandiflora and C. madagascariensis in the small sympatric range in Madagascar (Marohasy and Forster, 1991), distinguished by intermediate floral morphology. Tomley (1995) reported an interspecific hybrid from Florida, developed in the 1930s for horticultural purposes.
Physiology and Phenology
The seeds of C. grandiflora germinate with the first rains of the wet season in Australia. Growth rate is initially slow, but plants can reach 4-5 m in the first year, and appears to be marked by a well-defined periodicity. Leaf fall occurs towards the end of the wet season (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992), although plants on high or permanent water tables suffer minimal leaf loss (Tomley, 1995). Accumulation of starch in the stem and the root begins in autumn when day length drops below 12 hours. Depletion of starch reserves in winter, spring and summer is associated with maintenance then mobilization of reserves for growth over spring and summer (Tomley, 1995). Flowering occurs throughout the summer, and ceases in winter, seeds ripening towards the end of the dry season. Seeds are released from drying, dehiscing pods before the onset of the spring rains. Senescent plants have never been observed in Australia and it is probable that C. grandiflora is extremely long-lived.
Flowers are insect-pollinated, possessing corolla glands for this purpose. However, no specific pollinators have been identified in Australia, although scarab beetles and thrips have been collected inside flower tubes in Madagascar (Tomley, 1995). Seed survival in nature is thought to be less than 1 year; buried seed will remain viable for 6-8 months in dry soil. However, dry-stored seed at 5°C can survive for many years. Estimates of pod production by cultivated plants in the Neotropics have been put at 15 pods per plant, with up to 700 seeds per pod, or 10,500 seeds per plant (Curtis, 1946). In Queensland, a large plant can produce over 800 seeds in a single reproductive cycle and can set seed at least twice per year (Grice, 1996).
C. grandiflora occurs in the dry south-west of Madagascar where annual rainfall is less than 600 mm and as low as 300 mm, at an altitude below 600 m (Marohasy and Forster, 1991). The dry season lasts at least 8 months, but droughts of 12-18 months are not uncommon and However, in Australia it has extended its range into wetter areas, with up to 1400 mm annual rainfall; although it does not seed well at high rainfall. C. grandiflora is tolerant of a wide variety of soil types and grows on soils ranging from beach sand to heavy clay soils (Tomley, 1995), but is particularly favoured by dry tropical areas where run-off and accessible groundwater collect. Establishment in the dry areas is favoured by a leaf litter cover and the absence of fires (Humphries et al., 1991).
The vegetation in Madagascar where C. grandiflora is native is characterized by deciduous thickets dominated by Didiereaceae (an endemic family) and arborescent Euphorbias (Jenkins, 1987). Cultivated C. grandiflora in Haiti was reported to harbour the cotton aphid, Aphis gossypii, and the scale insect, Saissetia hemispherica (Knight, 1944).
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||5|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||23||27|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||26||34|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||10||21|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||8||12||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||400||1800||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page Bimodal
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Special soil tolerances
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Surveys for natural enemies were undertaken during the 1980s in south-west Madagascar. Most of the insects identified as natural enemies, including Hulaspis sp. nov. (Diaspididae), and Steatococcus sp. nov. (Margarodidae), although highly damaging, proved to be insufficiently host specific to be considered as biocontrol agents (McFadyen and Marohasy, 1990a,b). Other insect natural enemies from Madagascar including a gall fly (Gagne and Marohasy, 1997) and a hawkmoth (Huwer and McFadyen, 1999) have also been recorded. A number of fungal natural enemies, mainly leaf pathogens were also collected, most of which proved to be undescribed Coelomycetes. However, a rust fungus, Maravalia cryptostegiae proved to have the most potential (Evans, 1993). In its introduced range, several new fungal pathogens have been described on C. grandiflora: Pleosphaeropsis cryptostegiae Chona & Munjal and Colletotrichum cryptostegiae Chiplonkar, both from India, and Pseudocercospora cryptostegiae (Yamam.) Deighton from Taiwan (Chona and Munjal, 1950; Chiplonkar, 1965; Deighton, 1976).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
Seeds are wind-dispersed, aided by the tuft of silky hairs, but water is also a major means of dispersal since the seeds can float for long periods enabling them to be carried along watercourses. In addition, seed can tolerate prolonged periods of immersion in saline water facilitating oceanic dispersal (Tomley, 1995).
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
Animals have been implicated in the spread of seed, but there is little hard evidence available (Tomley, 1995), and there are no morphological adaptations for such dispersal.
Farm machinery and vehicles can become contaminated with the seed leading to long-distance dispersal.
Accidental introduction is considered as highly unlikely between countries and continents.
There are a number of commercial and amateur websites advertising the sale or exchange of seed (as purple Allamanda). C. grandiflora has been moved intentionally throughout the tropics as an ornamental and as a potential source of rubber.
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Fruits (inc. pods)||seeds|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||seeds|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Growing medium accompanying plants|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
Economic ImpactTop of page
The major economic impact from C. grandiflora invasion is the direct loss of pasture, with dense infestations reducing livestock carrying capacity by up to 100%, as well as the invasion of water courses and river banks leading to the impeding access by stock to water and difficulties in mustering. These increased management costs have been estimated at US$15 million per annum to the northern Queensland beef industry alone (Anon., 2001). Since C. grandiflora has the potential to infest nearly 600,000 km² of northern Australia (Chippendale, 1991) with present estimates put at 40,000 km² (Tomley and Evans, 2004), then the costs to landholders could spiral accordingly. Although C. grandiflora is highly poisonous, it is extremely unpalatable and thus grazing animals usually avoid it. However, in dry years significant losses can occur when forage is scarce (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
C. grandiflora can block watercourses and drastically alter land use. Moreover, its continued spread through semi-arid monsoonal forest is threatening the fragile gallery forest ecosystems as well as dry rainforest or vine thickets (Humphries et al., 1991; Tomley, 1995; Fensham, 1996).
Impact on Biodiversity
C. grandiflora has been described as the single biggest threat to natural ecosystems in tropical Australia (McFadyen and Harvey, 1990), since it is capable of covering trees up to 40 m high and destroying the upper storey vegetation, an important habitat for native birds and other endemic animals and a number of rare birds are reported to have disappeared from weed-infested gallery forests (Humphries et al., 1991). The ground flora is also affected and native grasses in particular, are under threat in the national parks of northern Queensland. There is a proposal to establish a 100 km wide, C. grandiflora-free buffer zone to prevent further westward spread of the weed into the Northern Territory where the prestigious Kakadu National Park lies in its path (Fuller, 1993; Tomley, 1995). A similar threat is also being posed in the National Park of Curação where endemic plants, especially cacti, are being smothered by C. grandiflora, 'the arch-enemy no.1" (Anon., 2002).
Social ImpactTop of page
C. grandiflora is having an increasing impact on tourism in the Gulf and Peninsula regions of Queensland, Australia as it invades national parks, and a similar situation is present in Curação. Local people in Madagascar are extremely wary of 'lombiry' (C. grandiflora) and warn against handling it, supported by reports concerning the latex and dried plant trimmings as irritants of the eyes, nose and throat (White, 1923; Oakes and Butcher, 1962). When ingested, the latex also causes heart malfunction as well as both stomach and intestinal disorders in both humans and animals, due to the presence of toxic glycosides (Cook et al., 1990; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; MISC, 2002).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop 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
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
Even prior to the First World War, C. grandiflora was cultivated as a source of rubber in India, as evidenced by a report from the Punjab detailing its agronomy and tapping methods for the period 1911-1913 (Mohendru, 1943). However, it was during the Second World War that the plant was fully exploited and was widely planted in both the Neo- and Palaeotropics to help meet wartime emergency requirements for natural rubber, and between 30-40,000 ha were planted in Haiti alone (Fennel, 1944). Nevertheless, as Martin (1944) predicted, alternative rubber plants such as C. grandiflora, could not compete with Hevea brasiliensis as they are generally inferior to it in yield, quality and ease of treatment of the latex (Stewart et al., 1948). Many of the plants of India, including introduced species, seem to have been evaluated at some time as potential sources of useful products, so it comes as no surprise that there are a number of references to alternative uses of C. grandiflora. Mukherjee et al. (1999) investigated the antibacterial properties of leaf extract; Doskotch et al. (1972) screened for antitumor agents; and Augustus et al. (2000) considered it as a potential source of industrial raw materials and as an alternative for conventional oil. Jenkins (1987) compiled an ethnobotanical database of Madagascar and Cryptostegia spp. are listed as having several uses, roots for toothache and the latex to cure ulcers and skin problems such as scabies.
Uses ListTop of page
- Poisonous to mammals
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Two species are recognized in the genus Cryptostegia and these have an almost uninterrupted distribution along the west coast of Madagascar (Marohasy and Forster, 1991). The southern species is C. grandiflora which can be distinguished from the central-northern species, C. madagascariensis Bojer ex Decne., which has stems with far fewer and larger lenticels, smaller pods (6-10 cm long), non-reflexed sepals, darker pink to pale purple corolla, and green rather than reddish-purple midribs or petioles. These two taxa have a small geographical overlap near Tulear (Toliara) where a few hybrids with intermediate floral and vegetative morphology have been identified (Marohasy and Forster, 1991).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the poisonous latex, grazing animals usually avoid C. grandiflora. Fire has proven to be the most cost-effective method to date for the control of dense weed infestations, reducing leaf mass and the destruction of both seedlings and above-ground seed (Tomley, 1995). However, seeds appear to be tolerant of high temperatures such that high-intensity fires are necessary for effective seed management (Bebawi and Row, 2001). Moreover, the use of fires needs to be balanced against the negative environmental impacts, such as deleterious changes in pasture composition, loss of nutrients, increased erosion and reduced amounts of pasture for stock; not to mention the loss of both floral and faunal biodiversity in non-agricultural ecosystems. Furthermore, although some 50-70% of plants can be killed in a pasture situation, less than 5% are killed along watercourses because of lower fuel loads (Tomley, 1995).
As a general rule, mechanical methods are impractical and prohibitively expensive because of the large areas involved (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). However, it can be recommended for medium to dense infestations in easily-accessable sites. The use of heavy dicing, cutter bars or blade ploughing is practiced in Queensland, Australia to remove the bulk of the foliage and stems, and bulldozing can kill about 10% of plants. However, this has to be followed by other control methods to prevent regrowth (Tomley, 1995).
As with mechanical methods, most weed infestations are so vast that overall control by chemical herbicides is not feasible, either practically, economically or environmentally, especially near water courses. Around 1990, it was calculated that the cost of spraying all the then known areas of infestation, just once, would cost in the region of US$250-1000 million for herbicide purchase alone (Vitelli et al., 1994). It is most commonly employed for preventing the colonization of new areas by spraying the invaded fronts. Several strategies have been adopted in Queensland, Australia. Scattered infestations are given priority and are most effectively killed using either basal-bark or cut-stump application with a herbicide such as 2,4-D butyl ester. In medium infestations, a foliar spray with 2,4-D, alone or with picloram can be used. For dense infestations (>2000 plants/ha), stem, foliar and soil applications are recommended but invariably within an integrated system and often using aerial (helicopter) spraying with tebuthiuron (Tomley, 1995).
The leaf-feeding caterpillar, Euclasta whalleyi from Madagascar, was released in Queensland, Australia in 1988-1991 (McFadyen and Harvey, 1990; McFadyen and Marohasy, 1990a), despite the fact that it is not specific to the target genus Cryptostegia but only within the sub-family Periplocoidae. Two native susceptible species of the closely-related genus Gymnanthera occupy similar habitats to C. grandiflora in Queensland but the threat of their extinction posed by the weed was considered to be far greater than that from the insect biocontrol agent, and thus the risk analysis strongly favoured introduction of the exotic insect. However, its impact on the weed has been insignificant (Tomley, 1995), probably due to parasitism, although more recent reports indicate that permanent populations may be establishing (Mo et al., 2000). Assessments of the Madagascan rust fungus, Maravalia cryptostegiae, showed that this pathogen had the highest biocontrol potential of the natural enemies surveyed: being highly damaging; specific at the genus level, as well as climatically adapted to Queensland conditions (Evans, 1993; Evans and Fleureau, 1993; Evans and Tomley, 1994). This potential has now been proven and a strain of the rust from south-west Madagascar, introduced in 1995, has had an enormous impact on the weed throughout its invasive range following a mass production and release programme (Evans, 2002; Tomley and Evans, 2004). Rust-induced defoliation has resulted in a significant reduction in weed biomass leading to almost complete loss of fecundity, as well as to widespread plant death (Tomley and Evans, 2004).
This has been the major thrust of the management programme in Queensland, Australia (Tomley, 1995), and paradoxically, the recent success of the rust biocontrol agent has had a positive rather than negative effect on herbicide usage, since landholders, encouraged by the impact of the rust, have increased their overall efforts at control. Similarly, the improved growth of indigenous grasses amongst rust-defoliated thickets of C. grandiflora has increased fuel loads creating more opportunities to use fire as a component of an integrated approach to weed management (Bebawi et al., 2000; Bebawi and Campbell, 2002; Tomley and Evans, 2004).
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ContributorsTop of page
11/01/2013 Updated by:
Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA
Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA
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