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Datasheet

Cryptostegia grandiflora (rubber vine)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 28 March 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Cryptostegia grandiflora
  • Preferred Common Name
  • rubber vine
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • 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...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Rubber vine plants in Madagascar, showing whip-like shoots.
TitleShoots and leaves
CaptionRubber vine plants in Madagascar, showing whip-like shoots.
CopyrightHarry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
Rubber vine plants in Madagascar, showing whip-like shoots.
Shoots and leavesRubber vine plants in Madagascar, showing whip-like shoots.Harry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
Close-up of Cryptostegia madagascariensis flower in Madagascar. Putative hybrids formed between C. grandiflora and C. madagascariensis in a small sympatric range in Madagascar (Marohasy and Forster, 1991), are distinguished by intermediate floral morphology.
TitleFlower
CaptionClose-up of Cryptostegia madagascariensis flower in Madagascar. Putative hybrids formed between C. grandiflora and C. madagascariensis in a small sympatric range in Madagascar (Marohasy and Forster, 1991), are distinguished by intermediate floral morphology.
CopyrightHarry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
Close-up of Cryptostegia madagascariensis flower in Madagascar. Putative hybrids formed between C. grandiflora and C. madagascariensis in a small sympatric range in Madagascar (Marohasy and Forster, 1991), are distinguished by intermediate floral morphology.
FlowerClose-up of Cryptostegia madagascariensis flower in Madagascar. Putative hybrids formed between C. grandiflora and C. madagascariensis in a small sympatric range in Madagascar (Marohasy and Forster, 1991), are distinguished by intermediate floral morphology. Harry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
C. grandiflora invading and smothering gallery forest. Northern Queensland, Australia.
TitleHabit
CaptionC. grandiflora invading and smothering gallery forest. Northern Queensland, Australia.
CopyrightHarry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
C. grandiflora invading and smothering gallery forest. Northern Queensland, Australia.
HabitC. grandiflora invading and smothering gallery forest. Northern Queensland, Australia.Harry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
C. grandiflora smothering endemic plants in Curação National Park.
TitleHabit
CaptionC. grandiflora smothering endemic plants in Curação National Park.
CopyrightHarry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
C. grandiflora smothering endemic plants in Curação National Park.
HabitC. grandiflora smothering endemic plants in Curação National Park.Harry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
Paired, horizontally-opposed green fruits of C. grandiflora in Curação.
TitleFruits
CaptionPaired, horizontally-opposed green fruits of C. grandiflora in Curação.
CopyrightHarry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
Paired, horizontally-opposed green fruits of C. grandiflora in Curação.
FruitsPaired, horizontally-opposed green fruits of C. grandiflora in Curação.Harry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
The rust Maravalia cryptostegiae on C. grandiflora in Madagascar.
TitleNatural enemy
CaptionThe rust Maravalia cryptostegiae on C. grandiflora in Madagascar.
CopyrightHarry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience
The rust Maravalia cryptostegiae on C. grandiflora in Madagascar.
Natural enemyThe rust Maravalia cryptostegiae on C. grandiflora in Madagascar.Harry C. Evans/CABI Bioscience

Identity

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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

EPPO code

  • CVRGR (Cryptostegia grandiflora)

Summary of Invasiveness

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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 Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Gentianales
  •                         Family: Apocynaceae
  •                             Genus: Cryptostegia
  •                                 Species: Cryptostegia grandiflora

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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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.

Description

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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 Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Perennial
Seed propagated
Shrub
Vine / climber
Woody

Distribution

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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 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 ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes

Asia

IndiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-GujaratPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003
-Indian PunjabPresentIntroduced Not invasive Mohendru, 1943
-Madhya PradeshPresentSmita and Rai, 2004
-MaharashtraPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003
-RajasthanPresentIntroduced Not invasive Lee et al., 1986
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroduced Not invasive Ghate, 1945
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroduced Not invasive Griffith, 1944; Singh et al., 1993
PhilippinesPresentRazon, 2008
SingaporeLocalisedIntroducedChong et al., 2009Cultivated
TaiwanPresentIntroduced Not invasive Deighton, 1976

Africa

EgyptPresentIntroduced Not invasive Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
EthiopiaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Mekonnen, 1994
MadagascarRestricted distributionNative Not invasive Natural Marohasy and Forster, 1991
MauritiusPresentIntroduced Not invasive Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
MoroccoPresentIntroduced Not invasive Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
NamibiaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003
SeychellesPresentIntroducedPIER, 2012

North America

BermudaPresentIntroducedBritton, 1918Reported in Britton's Flora of Bermuda as escaped from cultivation
MexicoPresentIntroduced Invasive van Devender et al., 1997; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003; Davidse et al., 2012Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatan, Baja California
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-ArizonaPresentIntroduced Invasive van Devender et al., 1997
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002; Wunderlin and Hansen, 2012
-HawaiiRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Stalpes et al., 2000; PIER, 2012

Central America and Caribbean

ArubaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Boldingh, 1914
BahamasPresentIntroducedBritton and Millspaugh, 1920Escaped from cultivation
BelizePresentIntroducedBalick et al., 2000
CubaPresentIntroduced1915 Invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003; González-Torres et al., 2012Date of introduction is taken from collections housed in the Smithsonian Herbarium
CuraçaoWidespreadIntroduced1914 Invasive Boldingh, 1914; Anon., 2002
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced1910Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012Date of introduction is taken from collections housed in the Smithsonian Herbarium
GrenadaPresentIntroduced1924Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012Date of introduction is taken from collections housed in the Smithsonian Herbarium
HaitiPresentIntroduced1910Fennel, 1944; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Smithsonian Institution, 2012Date of introduction is taken from collections housed in the Smithsonian Herbarium
HondurasPresentIntroducedDavidse et al., 2012
JamaicaPresentIntroduced1886Adams, 1972Date of introduction is taken from collections housed in the Smithsonian Herbarium
PanamaPresentIntroducedCorrea et al., 2004Darién
United States Virgin IslandsPresentIntroduced Not invasive Oakes and Butcher, 1962

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-BahiaPresentIntroducedForzza et al., 2012Sub-spontaneous. Amazonia and Caatinga
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentIntroducedForzza et al., 2012Sub-spontaneous. Amazonia and Caatinga
-ParaPresentIntroducedForzza et al., 2012Sub-spontaneous. Amazonia and Caatinga
-PiauiPresentIntroducedForzza et al., 2012Sub-spontaneous. Amazonia and Caatinga
-Rio Grande do NortePresentIntroducedForzza et al., 2012Sub-spontaneous. Amazonia and Caatinga
ColombiaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003
EcuadorPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedCharles Darwin Foundation, 2008Cultivated in Galapagos Islands (St. Cruz Island)
PeruPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003
VenezuelaPresentIntroduced Not invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003

Oceania

AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroduced Invasive Marohasy and Forster, 1991; Australian Weeds Committtee, 2012
-QueenslandWidespreadIntroduced1875 Invasive McFadyen & Harvey, 1990; Marohasy and Forster, 1991; Australian Weeds Committtee, 2012
-VictoriaPresentIntroduced Invasive Australian Weeds Committtee, 2012
FijiPresentIntroduced Not invasive Meyer, 2000; PIER, 2012
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedFlorence et al., 2011Cultivated
GuamPresentIntroduced Not invasive Stone, 1970; PIER, 2012
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced Not invasive Fosberg et al., 1979; PIER, 2012
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Meyer, 2000; PIER, 2012
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedFosberg et al., 1979; PIER, 2012Saipan Island
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2012Guadalcanal Island

History of Introduction and Spread

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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 Introduction

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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.

Habitat

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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 List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
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 Affected

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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 Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Eucalyptus spp.MyrtaceaeWild host
Poaceae (grasses)PoaceaeWild host

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

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.

Reproductive Biology

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).

Environmental Requirements

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).

Associations

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 Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
0 1500

Air Temperature

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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

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration812number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall4001800mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • saline
  • sodic

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Euclasta gigantalis Herbivore Leaves Queensland
Maravalia cryptostegiae Pathogen Leaves
Nephele densoi Herbivore Leaves
Schizomyia cryptostegiae Parasite Leaves/Stems

Notes on Natural Enemies

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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 Dispersal

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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.

Agricultural Practices

Farm machinery and vehicles can become contaminated with the seed leading to long-distance dispersal.

Accidental Introduction

Accidental introduction is considered as highly unlikely between countries and continents.

Intentional Introduction

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 Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Land vehiclesFarm machinery Yes
MailInternet plant sales Yes
Soil, sand and gravel Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx flowers
Fruits (inc. pods) seeds
True seeds (inc. grain) seeds
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Bark
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes
Growing medium accompanying plants
Leaves
Roots
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches
Wood

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
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 Negative
Livestock production Negative
Native fauna Negative
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species Negative
Tourism Negative
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel Negative

Economic Impact

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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 Impact

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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 Impact

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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 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
Impact outcomes
  • 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
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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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 List

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General

  • Ornamental

Materials

  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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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 Control

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Cultural Control

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).

Mechanical Control

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).

Chemical Control

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).

Biological Control

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).

Integrated Control

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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Links to Websites

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Australian Weeds Committeehttp://www.weeds.org.au/
Flora of the West Indieshttp://botany.si.edu/antilles/WestIndies/

Contributors

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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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