Elodea nuttallii (Nuttall's waterweed)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Elodea nuttallii (Planch.) H. St. John, 1920
Preferred Common Name
- Nuttall's waterweed
Other Scientific Names
- Anacharis nuttallii Planch., 1848
- Anacharis occidentalis (Pursh) Victorin
- Elodea columbiana H. St. John
- Elodea minor (Engelm. ex Caspary) Farw.
- Elodea occidentalis (Pursh) H. St. John
- Philotria angustifolia (Muhl.) Britton ex Rydb.
- Philotria minor (Engelm. ex Caspary) Small
- Philotria nuttallii (Planch.) Rydb., 1908
- Philotria occidentalis (Pursh) House
- Udora verticillata var. minor (L. f.) Spreng. Engelm. ex Caspary
International Common Names
- English: free-flowered waterweed; Nuttall waterweed; Nuttall's pondweed; slender waterweed; waterweed esthwaite; waterweed western; western elodea; western waterweed
- French: élodée a feuilles étroites; élodée de Nuttall
Local Common Names
- Denmark: smalbladet vandpest
- Germany: Nuttalls Wasserpest; Nuttall-wasserpest; Schmalblaettrige Wasserpest; Schmalblattrige Wasserpest; St. John- Wasserpest
- Italy: elodea di Nuttall; peste d'acqua di Nuttall
- Japan: Kokanadamo
- Netherlands: smalle waterpest
- Slovakia: vodomor Nuttalov
- Sweden: small vattenpest
- ELDNU (Elodea nuttallii)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
E. nuttallii is a perennial submerged aquatic plant native to North America. It was introduced as an aquarium plant into Europe, reported for the first time in Belgium in 1939 (Simpson, 1984; Cook and Urmi-König, 1985), and in Japan, circa 1960 (Ikushima and Kabaya, 1965), where it is commonly considered a weed (GCW, 2007). Several traits of the species are typical of successful invaders: rapid growth, vegetative reproduction through fragments and easily dispersed by waterfowl and currents (Cook and Urmi-König, 1985; Nichols and Shaw, 1986; Cook, 1987).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Hydrocharitales
- Family: Hydrocharitaceae
- Genus: Elodea
- Species: Elodea nuttallii
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Historically there has been much confusion in the classification of the species of the genus Elodea (Family Hydrocharitaceae). However, Cook and Urmi-König (1985), in the latest revision of the genus, recognize five species of Elodea, all of them from the New World: E. potamogeton (Bert) Espinosa, and E. callitrichoides (Rich.) Caspary are endemic to South America, while E.bifoliata St. John, E. canadensis and E. nuttallii grow in North America. Elodea nuttallii (Planch.) H. St. John, which is accepted by Tutin et al. (1980), was first named as Anacharis nuttallii Planchon in 1848 and later was replaced in the genus Elodea by St John in 1920. The taxon can be cited as H St. John or St John (IPNI, 2009). The epithet nuttallii, is after Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859), one of the first naturalists to explore the American West in the early nineteenth century.
DescriptionTop of page
E. nuttalli is a submerged-root aquatic plant, dioecious with floating flowers and rooting at nodes. The stems long and slender, often freely branched. Leaves pale green more or less equally spaced along the stem middle and upper leaves typically in whorls of 3 or occasionally 4, linear to narrowly lanceolate often recurved with folded margins; 6-13 mm long, 0.7-1.5 mm wide, acute at tip. Lower leaves in pairs and reduced in size, ovate-lanceolate. Stem slender, round in cross section, often freely branched, 30-100 cm long. Root white, unbranched, from nodes along the stem and not always present. The flower is small no more than 8 mm across; waxy white flowers occur at the ends of long, thread-like stalks and have 3 petals and usually 3 sepals. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants, but male flowers are rarely produced. Male flower spathes borne in middle axils, sessile, ovoid, about 2 mm long, spathe in 2 parts but the lobes twisted together so appears pointed; male flowers solitary and sessile in the spathe, breaking free and floating to the surface, where the flower opens, allowing pollen to drift on water's surface - hence the common name of free-flowering waterweed. Sepals ovate, about 2 mm long, sometimes reddish; petals lacking or to 0.5 mm long, ovate-lanceolate; stamens 9, pedicels briefly remaining attached following anthesis; inner 3 filaments connate proximally, forming column; anthers 1-1.4 mm; pollen in tetrads. Female flower spathes borne in upper axils, narrowly cylindric but slightly broadened at the base and the tip, 9-25 mm long; extended to the surface by a threadlike hypanthium up to 9 cm long; sepals green, tiny obovate, ca. 1 mm long; petals white, obovate, longer than the sepals; stigmas slender, slightly exceeding the sepals. Fruit narrowly ovoid to fusiform capsule, 5-7 mm long; containing several seeds. Ripens underwater. Seeds fusiform, 3.5-4.6 mm long, base with long hairs (Larson, 1993; FNA, 2009).
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
E. nuttallii is native to temperate North America common throughout most of the USA and south Canada and has a similar distribution to E. canadensis (eFloras, 2009; USDA-ARS, 2009; USDA-NRCS, 2009). In its non-native distribution, it is found in central and western Europe and Japan (Cook and Urmi-König, 1985).
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.Last updated: 23 Apr 2020
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Native|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
E. nuttallii was reported in Belgium in 1939 (with a definite identification in 1955) (Simpson, 1984); and in Britain in 1966, and spreading rapidly from 1970 onwards from the southeast and scattering throughout Wales, Scotland (Preston and Croft, 1997) and Ireland (1984). It was also reported in the Netherlands in 1941 and in Germany in 1961, where it has since spread across the country. There are also reports of finds in Denmark (1974) (DAISIE, 2009), in Switzerland, where it was reported in the 1980s, and is spreading along the Rodan (Rhone) river (CPS-SKEW, 2008). It was first found in Sweden in 1991, in Lake Mälaren (Anderberg, 1992) and, together with E. canadensis and Nymphoides peltata, it is one of the three most troublesome species in Sweden (Josefsson and Andersson, 2001). Thereafter, its spread was noted in 1998 in the Danube delta in Romania, covering the majority of the delta (Sârbu et al., 2006); and from there to Slovakia in 2001 (Otahelová and Valachovic, 2002) and Hungary (Mesterházy et al., 2009) and then spreading into Western Europe (Wittenberg, 2005; Branquart, 2007). It is not unlikely that additional finds have been made, but that they have been mistaken for Canadian waterweed. In Asia, it was reported for the first time in 1960 in Japan (Lake Biwa) (Ikushima and Caballa, 1965). Since then, it has expanded very rapidly, and is regarded as one of the most troublesome aquatic weeds together with Egeria densa (Kunii and Maeda, 1982; Oki, 1994; Nagasaka et al., 2002). It was also introduced into China around the 1980s (Xu et al., 2007).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
E. nuttallii has been unintentionally introduced outside its natural range via the trade in live aquarium plants, and has spread by escaping from garden ponds and during the disposal of garden waste near waterways. As this species is sold commercially as an aquarium or garden plant, there is a high risk of unintentional introduction. Different studies have established that E. nuttallii is probably in an expansion phase in Europe and is likely to spread to new areas (Simpson, 1984; Thiébaut et al., 1997; Barrat-Segretain, 2001; Larson, 2007), and it should be regarded as having a high risk of being invasive and must be strongly recommended as a priority target for eradication or control in new sites (Thiébaut et al., 1997; Barrat-Segretain, 2001). E. nuttallii is included in the black list in Belgium (Branquart, 2007) and Switzerland (CPS-SKEW, 2008) because of its high environmental risk, so further introductions, at least in these regions, are unlikely.
HabitatTop of page
E. nuttallii has been found growing in a wide range of water bodies, in general in quiet water such as shorelines of lakes, reservoirs and ponds, along rivers and streams, and also in wetlands, canals and ditches (Hickman, 1993). In England, it has been recorded in lowland habitats only (Preston and Croft, 1997).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Littoral||Intertidal zone||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Freshwater||Irrigation channels||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater||Lakes||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater||Reservoirs||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater||Rivers / streams||Principal habitat|
|Freshwater||Ponds||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
ClimateTop of page
|BS - Steppe climate||Tolerated||> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation|
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Tolerated||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Df - Continental climate, wet all year||Preferred||Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
E. nuttallii is relatively unpalatable (Elger et al., 2004) due its high synthesis of phenolic compounds (allelopathic effect) (Newman, 1991; Lemoine et al., 2009) and because it contains allelochemicals that are active against competing algae and cyanobacteria (Erhard and Gross, 2006; Wu et al., 2009). The chemical defence in E. nuttallii is a powerful trait to protect the plants against herbivores and might further strengthen the invasiveness of this species (Erhard et al., 2007).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
|Floating vegetation and debris||Yes|
Impact SummaryTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
E. nuttallii populations are rarely troublesome in natural habitats in North America, but plants can become dominant in altered or created aquatic systems, especially when bicarbonate, reduced iron, and phosphorus are plentiful (Thiébaut and De Nino, 2009). E. nuttallii tends to dominate native macrophyte communities, which may lead to their local extinction. This species may also have a significant impact on protected sites.
Impact on Biodiversity
It often forms dense, monospecific stands and displaces other aquatic plants from many localities (Simpson, 1984, 1990; Barrat-Segretain, 2005). E. nuttallii and E. canadensis have shading effects during phases of rapid growth and mass occurrence. The plants compete with and displace indigenous vegetation, thus reducing biodiversity (Josefsson and Andersson, 2001).
Social ImpactTop of page
It is a submerged plant, and just like E. canadensis it forms large and dense stands that interfere with boating, fishing and adversely affect recreation activities.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Tolerant of shade
- Highly mobile locally
- Long lived
- Fast growing
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Reproduces asexually
- Has high genetic variability
- Altered trophic level
- Changed gene pool/ selective loss of genotypes
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Host damage
- Increases vulnerability to invasions
- Infrastructure damage
- Modification of hydrology
- Modification of natural benthic communities
- Modification of nutrient regime
- Modification of successional patterns
- Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Soil accretion
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Antagonistic (micro-organisms)
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - shading
- Interaction with other invasive species
- Rapid growth
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult to identify/detect in the field
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
Uses ListTop of page
- Pet/aquarium trade
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
In its native range, it may be confused with Brazilian elodea (Egeria densa), which has a similar appearance, but has longer leaves in whorls of 4 to 6; also with Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), which has tubers and spiny leaf edges, and with coontail (Ceratophyllum sp.), which has forked, needle-like leaves, both of which are easily confused with each other. Flower structure and leaf width are the most reliable distinguishing characteristics, but due to infrequent and ephemeral flowering, together with the minute size of the flowers, leaf morphology is often the trait used to differentiate Elodea species in North America (Catling and Wojtas, 1986; Lawrence, 1976). Unfortunately there is overlap in the characteristics and there is little agreement among authors on the nature of these characteristics. According to Catling and Wojtas (1986), leaf width partially separates male plants of E. canadensis and E. nuttallii but not female plants.
Distinction between E. canadensis and E. nuttallii is possible from inflorescences: E. nuttallii has sessile male flowers, which are released at anthesis, and female flowers with a shorter floral tube (up to 9 cm).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
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.
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
Not much is known about the ecology of E. nuttallii within its native range and its reproduction strategies in both the native and introduced ranges.
ReferencesTop of page
Barrat-Segretain MH, 2001. Invasive species in the Rhône River floodplain (France): replacement of Elodea canadensis Michaux by E. nuttallii St. John in two former river channels. Archiv für Hydrobiologie, 152(2):237-251.
Barrat-Segretain MH, 2005. Competition between invasive and indigenous species: impact of spatial pattern and developmental stage. Plant Ecology, 180(2):153-160. http://springerlink.metapress.com/link.asp?id=100328
Barrat-Segretain MH; Elger A; Sagnes P; Puijalon S, 2002. Comparative life-history traits of two invasive macrophyte species, Elodea Canadensis Michaux and Elodea nuttallii (Planchon) H. St John. Aquat. Bot, 74:299-313.
Branquart E, 2007. Alert, black and watch lists of invasive species in Belgium. Elodea nuttalli - Nuttall's waterweed Harmonia version 1.2, Belgian Forum on Invasive species. http://ias.biodiversity.be
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Donk Evan; Otte A, 1996. Effects of grazing by fish and waterfowl on the biomass and species composition of submerged macrophytes. In: Hydrobiologia, 340(1/3) [ed. by Caffrey, J. M.\Barrett, P. R. F.\Murphy, K. J.\Wade, P. M.]. 285-290.
EPPO, 2014. PQR database. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization. http://www.eppo.int/DATABASES/pqr/pqr.htm
Erhard D; Gross EM, 2006. Allelopathic activity of Elodea canadensis and Elodea nuttallii against epiphytes and phytoplankton. Aquatic Botany, 85(3):203-211. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03043770
Erhard D; Pohnert G; Gross EM, 2007. Chemical defense in Elodea nuttallii reduces feeding and growth of aquatic herbivorous Lepidoptera. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 33(8):1646-1661. http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=104273
Grudnik ZM; Jelenko I; Germ M, 2014. Influence of abiotic factors on invasive behaviour of alien species Elodea nuttallii in the Drava River (Slovenia). Annales de Limnologie - International Journal of Limnology, 50(1):1-8. http://www.limnology-journal.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9077500&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0003408813000654
Hickman JC, 1993. The Jepson manual. Higher plants of California. The Jepson manual. Higher plants of California. University of California Press. http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/interchange/I_treat_indexes.html
James C; Eaton JW; Hardwick K, 1998. Competition between three submerged macrophytes, Elodea canadensis, Elodea nuttallii and Lagarosiphon major. In: Management and ecology of aquatic plants. Proceedings of the 10th EWRS International Symposium on Aquatic Weeds, Lisbon, Portugal, 21-25 September 1998 [ed. by Monteiro, A.\Vasconcelos, T.\Catarino, L.]. Doorwerth, Netherlands: European Weed Research Society, 79-82.
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Larson GE, 1993. Aquatic and wetland vascular plants of the Northern Great Plains. Aquatic and wetland vascular plants of the Northern Great Plains. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, 681 pp. [Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-238.] http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/plants/vascplnt/vascplnt.htm
Lemoine DG; Barrat-Segretain MH; Roy A, 2009. Morphological and chemical changes induced by herbivory in three common aquatic macrophytes. International Review of Hydrobiology, 94(3):282-289. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122439555/abstract
Mesterházy A; Király G; Vidéki R; Steták D; Csiky J, 2009. Actual report on spread of invasive macrophytes in Hungary. In: Proceedings of the 12th European Weed Research Society Symposium, Jyväskylä, Finland, 24-28 August 2009 [ed. by Pieterse, A. \Rytkönen, A. M. \Hellsten, S.].
Nagasaka M, 2004. Changes in biomass and spatial distribution of Elodea nuttallii (Planch.) St. John, an invasive submerged plant, in oligomesotrophic Lake Kizaki from 1999 to 2002. Limnology, 5:129-139.
Newman JR, 2009. Information sheet 25: Elodea nuttallii, Nuttall's Pondweed. Information sheet 25: Elodea nuttallii, Nuttall's Pondweed. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, 2 pp. http://www.nercwallingford.ac.uk/research/capm/information%20sheets.htm
Nino Fdi; Thiébaut G; Muller S, 2005. Response of Elodea nuttallii (Planch.) H. St. John to manual harvesting in the north-east of France. Hydrobiologia [French Limnological Association conference 'Biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems', Paul Verlaine - Metz University, France, December 2003.], 551:147-157.
Nino FDi; Thiébaut G; Muller S, 2007. Phenology and phenotypic variation of genetically unifor populations of Elodea nuttallii (Planch.) H. St John at sites of different trophic states. Archiv für Hydrobiologie, 168:335-343.
Oki Y, 1994. Integrated management of aquatic weeds in Japan. In: Integrated management of paddy and aquatic weeds in Asia. Proceedings of an international seminar, Tsukuba, Japan, 19-25 October 1992 [ed. by Bay-Petersen, J.]. Taipei, Taiwan: Food and Fertilizer Technology Center for the Asian and Pacific Region, 96-105.
Ozimek T; Donk EVan; Gulati RD, 1993. Growth and nutrient uptake by two species of Elodea in experimental conditions and their role in nutrient accumulation in a macrophytedominated lake. Hydrobiologia, 251:13-18.
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Thiebaut G, 2008. [English title not available]. (Etude comparative de deux espèces végétales aquatiques invasives Elodea nuttallii et E. canadensis. Stratégies adaptatives, facteurs écologiques, polymorphisme génétique des espèces, contribution au contrôle du phénomène invasif. MEDD, Programme de recherché. Invasions biologiques.) Etude comparative de deux espèces végétales aquatiques invasives Elodea nuttallii et E. canadensis. Stratégies adaptatives, facteurs écologiques, polymorphisme génétique des espèces, contribution au contrôle du phénomène invasif. MEDD, Programme de recherché. Invasions biologiques. 58 pp. http://www.ecologie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/Muller_et_Tremoliere_rapport_final.pdf
Thiébaut G; Muller S, 1999. A macrophyte communities sequence as an indicator of eutrophication and acidification levels in weakly mineralised streams in north-eastern France. Hydrobiologia [Man and river systems. The functioning of river systems at the basin scale.], 410:17-24.
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Thiebaut G; Rolland T; Robach F; Tremolieres M; Muller S, 1997. Some consequences of the introduction of two macrophyte species, Elodea canadensis Michaux and Elodea nuttallii St. John, in continental aquatic ecosystems: example of the Alsace plain and the northern Vosges (North-East France). (Quelques conséquences de l'introduction de deux especes de macrophytes, Elodea canadensis Michaux et Elodea nuttallii St. John, dans les écosystèmes aquatiques continentaux: exemple de la Plaine d'Alsace et des Vosges du Nord (Nord-Est de la France).) Bulletin Français de la Pêche et de la Pisciculture, No. 344/345:441-452.
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Vanderpoorten A; Lambinon J; Tignon M, 2000. Morphological and molecular evidence of the confusion between Elodea callitrichoides and E. nuttallii in Belgium and Northern France. Belgian Journal of Botany, 133:41-52.
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Grudnik Z M, Jelenko I, Germ M, 2014. Influence of abiotic factors on invasive behaviour of alien species Elodea nuttallii in the Drava River (Slovenia). Annales de Limnologie - International Journal of Limnology. 50 (1), 1-8. http://www.limnology-journal.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=9077500&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0003408813000654 DOI:10.1051/limn/2013065
Mesterházy A, Király G, Vidéki R, Steták D, Csiky J, 2009. Actual report on spread of invasive macrophytes in Hungary. In: Aquatic Weeds 2009. Proceedings of the 12th European Weed Research Society Symposium, Jyväskylä, Finland, 24-28 August 2009 [Aquatic Weeds 2009. Proceedings of the 12th European Weed Research Society Symposium, Jyväskylä, Finland, 24-28 August 2009], [ed. by Pieterse A, Rytkönen A-M, Hellsten S]. Helsinki, Finland: Finnish Environment Institute. 133-134.
Sârbu A, Smarandache D, Janauer G, Pascale G, 2006. Elodea nuttallii (Planchon) St. John - a competitive hydrophyte in the Romanian Danube river corridors. In: Proceedings 36th International Conference of IAD. Austrian Committee DanubeResearch/IAD, Vienna, 4-8 September 2006 [Proceedings 36th International Conference of IAD. Austrian Committee DanubeResearch/IAD, Vienna, 4-8 September 2006], 107-111.
OrganizationsTop of page
Japan: Research Center for Coastal Lagoon Environments, Shimane University
ContributorsTop of page
09/04/10 Original text by:
Manuel A. Duenas, Universidad de Cordoba, Dept. de Botanica, Ecologia y Fisiología Vegetal. Edificio C-4, Celestino Mutis, Campus de Rabanales, 4071-Cordoba, Spain
Distribution MapsTop of page
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