Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Emilia sonchifolia
(red tasselflower)



Emilia sonchifolia (red tasselflower)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Emilia sonchifolia
  • Preferred Common Name
  • red tasselflower
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae

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Flowering shoot of consumption weed (E. sonchifolia).
TitleFlowering shoot
CaptionFlowering shoot of consumption weed (E. sonchifolia).
Copyright©P.J. Terry/LARS
Flowering shoot of consumption weed (E. sonchifolia).
Flowering shootFlowering shoot of consumption weed (E. sonchifolia).©P.J. Terry/LARS


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Emilia sonchifolia (L.) DC. (1838)

Preferred Common Name

  • red tasselflower

Other Scientific Names

  • Cacalia sonchifolia L. (1753)
  • Emilia purpurea Cass. (1826)
  • Emilia rigidula DC. (1838)
  • Emilia scabra DC. (1838)
  • Senecio sonchifolius Moench

International Common Names

  • English: consumption weed; cupids paintbrush; cupids shaving brush; Flora's paintbrush; purple sow thistle; red groundsel
  • Spanish: borlitas; clavel chino; huye que te cojo; pincel de amor; pincelillo de poeta; yebra socialista
  • French: cacalie a feuilles de laiteron; herbe a lapin; manger lapin; salade a lapin
  • Portuguese: bela-emilia; serralha

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: brocha; erralha-mirim; falsa-serralha; pincel
  • Germany: Purpur- Quastenkoepfchen
  • Indonesia: djombang; dwaji rowo
  • Japan: usubeni-nigana
  • Madagascar: tsiontsiona
  • Malawi: kalimwendo; mambenawo
  • Malaysia: ketumbit jantan; tanbak-tambak merah; tetambak merah
  • Philippines: cetim; kipot-kipot; lamlampka; tagiulinau; yagod-no-kang kang
  • Vietnam: co chua le

EPPO code

  • EMISO (Emilia sonchifolia)

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The name Emilia sonchifolia is widely accepted. The species name refers to the leaves which, like those of the sowthistle in the genus Sonchus, clasp the stem of the plant.


Top of page E. sonchifolia is an erect to ascending, smooth or sparingly hairy soft stemmed, slenderly branched annual herb, growing 20 to 70 cm tall with a branched tap root. The leaves are alternate. Those on the lower stem are deeply and irregularly toothed, being nearly round, kidney shaped, ovate, triangular-ovate or obovate, 4 to 16 cm long, 1 to 8 cm wide, with narrowly winged petioles. The upper, lanceolate leaves are sessile, with bases which encircle the stem. They are smaller than the lower leaves, usually entire but sometimes coarsely toothed.

The inflorescence is terminal, usually dichotomously branched, flat-topped and composed of 3 to 6 stalked flower heads, each with a whorl of bracts beneath. Each urn-shaped flower head, a composite of numerous tubular florets which protrude by 1 mm above a single ring of outer green involucral bracts, is 12 to 14 mm long by 4 to 5 mm wide. There are 30-60 florets per head, the outer ones female and the inner ones with both stamens and stigmas. The flowers may be purple, scarlet, red, pink, orange, white or lilac. The fruit is an oblong dry indehiscent ribbed achene, 2.4 to 3 mm long, reddish brown or off-white with a papus of white hairs which are up to 8 mm long.


Top of page A native of Central and South America, E. sonchifolia occurs in the tropics and sub-tropics of at least 54 countries. It is widely distributed in the more humid parts of West Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


BangladeshPresentHolm et al., 1997
Brunei DarussalamPresentWaterhouse, 1993
CambodiaPresentWaterhouse, 1993
ChinaPresentWang, 1990
-Hong KongPresentHolm et al., 1979
-HunanPresentCollege, 1974
IndiaPresentIRRI, 1989; Holm et al., 1997
-Himachal PradeshPresentSaha et al., 1982
-KarnatakaPresentKrishna Sastry et al., 1980
-MeghalayaPresentMisra et al., 1995
IndonesiaPresentIRRI, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993
-JavaPresentUphof, 1968; Holm et al., 1997
JapanPresentHolm et al., 1979
LaosPresentHolm et al., 1997
MalaysiaPresentIRRI, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993; Holm et al., 1997
MyanmarPresentWaterhouse, 1993
PhilippinesWidespreadPancho et al., 1969; IRRI, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993
SingaporePresentWaterhouse, 1993
Sri LankaPresentIRRI, 1989
TaiwanPresentHolm et al., 1997
ThailandPresentIRRI, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993; Holm et al., 1997
VietnamPresentIRRI, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993; Holm et al., 1997


Côte d'IvoirePresentAdams, 1963
Equatorial GuineaPresentAdams, 1963
GhanaPresentAdams, 1963; Holm et al., 1997
GuineaPresentAdams, 1963
KenyaPresentHolm et al., 1997
MadagascarPresentHolm et al., 1997
MalawiPresentBanda and Morris, 1985
MauritiusPresentHolm et al., 1979
NigeriaPresentAdams, 1963; Marks, 1983
SenegalPresentBerhaut, 1967
SeychellesPresentRobertson, 1989
Sierra LeonePresentAdams, 1963
SudanPresentHolm et al., 1997

North America

MexicoPresentHolm et al., 1997
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HawaiiWidespreadHaslewood and Matter, 1966; Holm et al., 1997

Central America and Caribbean

AnguillaPresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
Antigua and BarbudaPresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
BarbadosPresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
Costa RicaPresentHolm et al., 1997
CubaPresentRodriguez et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1997
DominicaPresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
Dominican RepublicPresentHolm et al., 1997
GrenadaPresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
GuadeloupePresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
HondurasPresentHolm et al., 1997
MartiniquePresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
MontserratPresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
Netherlands AntillesPresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
NicaraguaPresentSolis & de le Cruz, 1991; Holm et al., 1997
Puerto RicoPresentVelez & van Overbeek, 1950
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentFournet and Hammerton, 1991
Trinidad and TobagoPresentKasanian, 1964; Fournet and Hammerton, 1991

South America

BoliviaPresentGonzales and Webb, 1989
BrazilWidespreadHolm et al., 1997
-AmazonasPresentLorenzi, 1982
-BahiaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-CearaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Espirito SantoPresentLorenzi, 1982
-GoiasPresentLorenzi, 1982
-MaranhaoPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Mato GrossoPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Minas GeraisPresentLorenzi, 1982
-ParaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-ParaibaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-ParanaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-PernambucoPresentLorenzi, 1982
-PiauiPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Rio de JaneiroPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Rio Grande do NortePresentLorenzi, 1982
-Rio Grande do SulPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Santa CatarinaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Sao PauloWidespreadLorenzi, 1982
-SergipePresentLorenzi, 1982
ColombiaPresentHincapie et al., 1993; Holm et al., 1997
EcuadorPresentHolm et al., 1979
ParaguayPresentHolm et al., 1997
PeruPresentHolm et al., 1997
SurinamePresentHolm et al., 1997
VenezuelaPresentHolm et al., 1997


American SamoaPresentWaterhouse, 1997
AustraliaPresentHolm et al., 1997
-QueenslandPresentKleinschmidt & Johnson, 1977
FijiPresentParham, 1958; Waterhouse, 1997
French PolynesiaPresentRemaudiere et al., 1977; Waterhouse, 1997
New CaledoniaPresentHolm et al., 1997; Waterhouse, 1997
NiuePresentWaterhouse, 1997
Papua New GuineaPresentHenty and Pritchard, 1975; Holm et al., 1997; Waterhouse, 1997
SamoaPresentWaterhouse, 1997
Solomon IslandsPresentHolm et al., 1997; Waterhouse, 1997
TongaPresentHolm et al., 1997; Waterhouse, 1997
VanuatuPresentWaterhouse, 1997


Top of page Growing from sea level to 1000 m, E. sonchifolia thrives under a wide range of conditions in the tropics and sub-tropics from the full sunlight of open grassland, waste areas, roadsides or wide spaced arable crops, to the partial shade of perennials including coffee, oil palm and tea. It is particularly tolerant of acid conditions; it is, for example, an early colonizer of newly cleared peat soils in Malaysia (Wee, 1970).

Habitat List

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Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page Within its distribution, E. sonchifolia can be found in virtually any annual or perennial plantation crop grown under rainfed or irrigated dryland conditions.

Biology and Ecology

Top of page As long as soil moisture is adequate, E. sonchifolia will germinate throughout the growing season in Nigeria (Marks, 1983) with plants completing their life cycle in about 90 days. Two types of seed may be distinguished by the colour of the achene. The female outer circle of florets of a flower head produce reddish-brown achenes while those from inner hermaphrodite florets are off-white (Marks and Akosim, 1984). A larger proportion of both types germinate at 27°C than at 30°C but only those which develop from outer florets germinate under deep shade. While low levels of germination (4%) will occur when seeds are buried as deep as 4 cm in the soil, plants will only emerge from seed near to the surface. Only 3% of seedlings germinating at a depth of 1 cm emerged in trials in Sri Lanka compared with 29% of those placed at 0.5 cm (Pemadasa and Kangatharalingam, 1977), suggesting that occasional deep tillage may be a useful control measure. The seed carries a papus of hairs suggesting that wind acts as the main dispersal agent.

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page None of the reported natural enemies cause sufficient damage to provide useful control. Most have been studied as pests of crops (see Economic Impact).


Top of page E. sonchifolia has been reported as a weed of 29 crops, but although extremely common, Holm et al. (1997) do not consider it to be troublesome. However, they do report that the species is a serious or principal weed in some areas, for example in cassava in Brazil and India; in cotton, maize and lowland rice in Brazil; in oil palm and rubber in South East Asia; in papaya, groundnut, sweet potato and tomato in Hawaii, USA; in pineapple in Hawaii, USA and Malaysia; and in taro (Colocasia esculenta) in Samoa. It has also been identified as one of the most problematic weeds in the cotton-producing areas of Nicaragua (Solis and de la Cruz, 1992). In other situations E. sonchifolia is but one member of a diverse broadleaf flora. When uncontrolled, E. sonchifolia or E. coccinea can decrease the dry weight of lettuce and mustard cabbage (Brassica juncea) by 70 and 30% respectively (at 11 weeds per crop plant), while tomato fruit yield has been shown to be reduced by 18% by 80-120 weeds per plant. The more competitive, closely spaced crop of sweet corn was not affected by up to 150 weeds per crop plant (Floresca, 1976).

In Hawaii, USA, a wilt disease of pawpaw (Carica papayas), caused by tomato spotted wilt tospovirus (TSWV) is invariably associated with orchards which have numerous TSWV infected E. sonchifolia plants (Gonsalves and Truijillo, 1986). Other economically important pathogens for which E. sonchifolia is an alternative host are Xanthomonas campestris pv. phaseoli [X. axonopodis pv. phaseoli], which causes bacterial infection of beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) in Brazil and Cuba (Rodriguez et al., 1991; Valarini and Spadotto, 1995 ), the yellow spot virus of pineapple [tomato spotted wilt tospovirus](Frohlich and Rodewald, 1970), and the nematode, Rotylenchulus reniformis, found in bananas in Cuba (Blanco, et al., 1982). It is also a host of Liriomyza huidobrensis, an insect pest of onion (Allium cepa) in Colombia (Hincapie et al., 1993).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Vigna o-wahuensis (Oahu cowpea)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alteration; Pest and disease transmissionUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
Impact mechanisms
  • Pest and disease transmission


Top of page The young leaves are used as a vegetable in Java (Uphof, 1968) and Puerto Rico (Martin and Ruberte, 1978) while the plants are considered of value medicinally in India and China (Duke and Ayensu, 1985).

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page E. sonchifolia is most likely to be confused with E. coccinea with which it will hybridize (Olorode and Olorunfemi, 1973). E. coccinea is also found in Brazil, the Caribbean, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, USA, Venezuela, Sri Lanka and much of West Africa (Adams, 1963; Holm et al., 1979; Fournet and Hammerton, 1991). In East and Central Africa both species occur in highland areas of Malawi (Banda and Morris, 1985), while E. coccinea is widespread throughout more humid areas of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda (Blundell, 1992), and is also present in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia (Bolnick, 1995). E. coccinea may be distinguished by having about 8 involucral bracts, somewhat less than the 15 found in E. sonchifolia. E. coccinea is recognized by yellow flowered forms in West Africa and scarlet flowered forms in East/Central Africa, while those of E. sonchifolia are mauve or rarely white (Adams, 1963). However, flower colour in E. sonchifolia varies greatly around the world and particular care needs to be taken when considering this character.

While E. sonchifolia is found up to 1000 m, another species, E. prenanthoidea, is common at higher altitudes in Papua New Guinea. The heads of this species are solitary or only a few are found in an inflorescence, while the leaves are narrower and less lobed than in E. sonchifolia (Henty and Pritchard, 1975).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

E. sonchifolia is easily controlled mechanically, while selective chemical control can be achieved in some annual and perennial crops. A co-formulated mixture of pretilachlor and dimethametryn, a mixture of piperophos with propanil or oxidiazon alone, all applied at 5 days after sowing provided 8-12 weeks control in upland rice in Nigeria (Enyinnia, 1992). Pre-emergence applications of cyanazine, metribuzin or imazaquin, or post-emergence application of a mixture of bentazone, fomensafen and sethoxydim allow selective control in soyabean (Barros, 1989; Barros et al., 1992). Sethoxydim applied alone has not provided control in trials with either cotton or soyabean in Brazil (Beltrao, et al., 1983; Barros et al., 1992). A number of options are available for residual control in plum orchards including glyphosate mixtures with diuron, simazine or terbacil, MSMA mixed with diuron, or paraquat mixed with simazine (Almeida et al., 1987). For Eucalyptus grandis, oxyfluorfen provides control of E. sonchifolia for up to 180 days following application (Silva et al., 1995). Atrazine provides excellent control in sugarcane in Hawaii (Olney, 1971).


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Adams CD, 1963. Compositae. In: Hutchinson J, Dalziel JM, Hepper FN, eds. Flora of West Tropical Africa, Volume 2, Second edition. London, UK: Crown Agents.

Almeida JCVda, Chehata AN, Fornarolli DA, Braz BA, Barros L, Costa FAda, 1987. The control of weeds in Carmesin plums (Prunus salicina) through the use of post-emergence herbicides with residual activity. Semina (Londrina), 8(1):5-8; 11 ref.

Banda AK, Morris B, 1985. Common Weeds of Malawi. Lilangwe, Malawi: University of Malawi.

Barros AC de, Matos FSA, Netto CT, 1992. Evaluation of herbicides in the control of weeds in the soyabean crop. Planta Daninha, 10(1/2):45-49.

Barros AC, 1989 Control of weeds, dicotyledons, using pre-emergence herbicides in soyabeans. Communicado Technico Empressa Goiana de Pesquisa Agropecuaria, No. 16, 8pp.

Beltrao NE de M, Silva JF da, Silveira AJ da, Sedyama CS, Costa LM da, Oliva MA, 1983. Behaviour of upland type cotton (Gossypium hirsutum latifolium Hutch.) and weed control after using the herbicides diuron and sethoxydim. Planta Daninha, 6(1):58-71.

Berhaut J, 1967. Flore du Senegal. Dakar, Senegal: Editions Clairafrique.

Blanco Brito JJ, Fernandez M, Ortega J, 1982. New hosts for Rotylenchulus reniformis. Ciencias de la Agricultura, No.13:121

Blundell M, 1992. Wild Flowers of East Africa. London, UK: Harper Collins.

Bolnick D, 1995. A Guide to the Common Wild flowers of Zambia and Neighbouring Regions. London, UK: Macmillan.

China, Hunan Province College of Agriculture, 1974. Weeds of crop fields. Weeds of crop fields. Agriculture Publishing House. Peking China, 290pp.

Duke J, Ayensu E, 1985. Medical Plants of China. Algonac, Michigan, USA: Reference Publications Inc.

Enyinnia T, 1992. Chemical weed control in rainfed upland rice in Nigeria. Tropical Pest Management, 38(4):408-410.

Floresca ET, 1976. Weed ecology and economic importance of Emilia javanica (Burm.) Rob. and E. sonchifolia (L.) DC. Dissertation Abstracts International, B, 37(1):13.

Fournet J, Hammerton JL, 1991. Weeds of the Lesser Antilles. Paris, France: Department d'Economie et Sociologie Rurales, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique.

Frohlich G, Rodewald W, 1970. Enfernedades y plagas de las plantas tropicales. Leipzig, Germany: Offizin Anderson Nexo.

Gonsalves D, Trujillo EE, 1986. Tomato spotted wilt virus in papaya and detection of the virus by ELISA. Plant Disease, 70(6):501-506.

Gonzales GB, Webb ME, 1989. Manual Para la Identificacion y Control de Malezas en el Area Integrada de Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz, Bolivia: Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical.

Haslewood EL, Matter GG, 1966. Handbook of Hawaiian Weeds. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association.

Henty EE, Pritchard GH, 1975. Weeds of New Guinea and their Control. Lp, Papua New Guinea: Department of Forests, Division of Botany, Botany Bulletin No.7.

Hincapie CMC, Saavedra H ME, Trochez PAL, 1993. Life cycle, behaviour and natural enemies of Liriomyza huidobrensis (Blanchard) on bulb onion (Allium cepa L.). Revista Colombiana de Entomologia, 19(2):51-57.

Holm L, Doll J, Holm E, Pancho J, Herberger J, 1997. World Weeds. Natural Histories and Distribution. New York, USA: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Holm LG, Pancho JV, Herberger JP, Plucknett DL, 1979. A geographical atlas of world weeds. New York, USA: John Wiley and Sons, 391 pp.

IRRI, 1989. Weeds Reported in Rice in South and South East Asia. Manila, Philippines: International Rice Research Institute.

Kasasian L, 1964. Common Weeds of Trinidad. St Agustine, Trinidad: University of the West Indies.

Kleinschmidt HE, Johnson, RW, 1977. Weeds of Queensland. Queensland, Australia: Department of Primary Industries.

Lorenzi H, 1982. Weeds of Brazil, terrestrial and aquatic, parasitic, poisonous and medicinal. (Plantas daninhas de Brasil, terrestres, aquaticas, parasitas, toxicas e medicinais.) Nova Odessa, Brazil: H. Lorenzi, 425 pp.

Marks MK, 1983. Timing of seedling emergence and reproduction in some tropical dicotyledonous weeds. Weed Research, UK, 23(6):325-332.

Marks MK, Akosim C, 1984. Achene dimorphism and germination in three composite weeds. Tropical Agriculture, 61(1):69-73.

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Waterhouse DF, 1997. The major invertebrate pests and weeds of agriculture and plantation forestry in the southern and western Pacific. Canberra, Australia: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. 93 pp. [ACIAR Monograph No. 44].

Wee Y, 1970. Weed succession observations on arable peat land. Malayan Forester, 33:63-69.

Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Distribution Maps

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