Erodium cicutarium (common storksbill)
- 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
- Biology and Ecology
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Uses List
- Detection and Inspection
- 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
- Erodium cicutarium (L.) L'Her. ex Ait
Preferred Common Name
- common storksbill
International Common Names
- English: common storksbill; filaree; Hemlock storksbill; redstem filaree
- Spanish: Agujas; Alfilerillo
- French: Bec-de-grue commun; Erodium a feuilles de cigue
- Portuguese: bico-de-cegonha
Local Common Names
- English: alfilaree; alfilaria; common crowfoot; common erodium; common heron’s-bill; common stork’s- bill; cutleaf erodium; cutleaf filaree; cutleaf heron’s-bill; filaree; heron’s-bill; pin weed; pinclover; pingrass; red-stem filaree; red-stem storksbill; stork’s-bill
- Denmark: hejrenæb
- France: érodium à feuilles de ciguë
- Germany: Gemeiner Reiherschnabel; Schierlings- Reiherschnabel
- Italy: becco di grù comune; Rostro di gru
- Netherlands: gewone en duinreigersbeck; gewone Reigersbek
- Portugal: bico-de-cegonha
- Spain: aguja de pastor
- Sweden: Skatnaeva
- EROCI (Erodium cicutarium)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
E. cicutarium is a winter growing annual native to Europe, North Africa and temperature Asia. It has been introduced to North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, the Azores and the far east of Russia. E. cicutarium has become part of plant communities in a wide range of disturbed environments, from deserts to cool temperate grassland and cultivated land. In these environments it can threaten crop production and cause economic losses in pastures and forage crops (ISSG, 2013). In California it is part of a group of annual grasses (largely plants of Mediterranean origin) that have replaced native perennial grasslands (Howard, 1992).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Geraniales
- Family: Geraniaceae
- Genus: Erodium
- Species: Erodium cicutarium
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The genus Erodium comprises about 60 species, 34 of which are native to Europe to Central Asia, and others to Australia and south tropical South America (Mabberley, 1997).
DescriptionTop of page
Modified from Webb et al. (1988):
Annual, at first a stemless rosette, later usually with one or more hairy stems; plant extremely variable in size, from prostrate to about 50 cm high and about 75 cm wide, not musk-scented. Leaves to about 15 cm long, pinnate, hairy, sometimes densely so, sometimes glandular; petiole longer in rosette and lower stem leaves. Leaflets sessile, ovate, deeply and finely pinnately dissected with linear to lanceolate lobes, often densely covered in white hairs. Stipules triangular, often broad, membranous, ciliate, silvery; midrib green, forming an acute or mucronate apex. Umbels (2)-5-12-flowered; bracts broad-ovate, membranous, with green keeled midrib forming an acute to short-acuminate apex. Peduncles densely covered in glandular hairs, often longer than the upper stem leaves; pedicels more or less equal to the calyx at anthesis. Sepals (2.5)-3-5 mm long at anthesis, lanceolate, hirsute or glandular, mucronate. Petals 4-6 mm long, elliptic or oblong-elliptic, usually pink or mauve-pink, rarely white; claw short, hairy. Stamens about 3 mm long; filaments widened at base, without lateral teeth, usually pinkish; anthers dark purple. Staminodes narrow-lanceolate. Fruit beak 3-3.5 cm long with appressed hairs. Mericarps densely hirsute with hairs of differing lengths; apical pits eglandular, with a prominent shallow glabrous furrow beneath.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
E. cicutarium is native to Europe, North Africa and temperature Asia. It has been introduced to North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, the Azores and the far east of Russia.
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: 17 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||Native||Meadows, flood plains, gravel areas, disturbed areas, 700-200m|
|Russia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Russian Far East||Present||Introduced|
|-District of Columbia||Present||Introduced|
|-Hawaii||Present||Introduced||Invasive||All main islands|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced|
|-Western Australia||Present||Introduced||Southern parts|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
E. cicutarium was initially accidentally taken from Europe to North America by Spanish explorers and missionaries in the 18th century (Mensing and Byrne, 1998). E. cicutarium pollen in core samples taken off the coast of California date the plant’s arrival in this region to 1755-1760, a few years before Spanish missionaries established the first European settlement at San Diego in 1769 (Mensing and Byrne, 1998). Mensing and Byrne (1998) speculated that E. cicutarium invaded California from Baja California in Mexico, possibly transported on the fur or feathers of animals or by seed-eating birds or small mammals. By the time the earliest missions were built, E. cicutarium was already fairly well established (Hendry, 1931, quoted in Mensing and Byrne, 1998). E. cicutarium was probably spread throughout much of North America by animals with seeds in their wool, fur or hair.
E. cicutarium was most likely taken to Australia and New Zealand along with European animals, their fodder and straw in the 19th Century.
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Australia||Europe||Before 1860||Yes||Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (2013); Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (2004); Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (2013)||Probably accidental, probably from Europe - South East Coastal Ranges|
|New Zealand||Europe||Before 1864||Yes||THOMSON (1922)||Probably accidental, probably from Europe - In Auckland district in 1869|
|USA||Mexico||Before 1769||Yes||Mensing and Byrne (1998)||Probably accidental, possible from Mexico - Santa Barbara, California|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Modern phytosanitary measures mean that long distance transport of E. cicutarium is less likely than it used to be, but inadvertent introduction through seeds attached to clothing may still occur. Seed could also be transmitted to new countries in legal imports of agricultural seed but again this should be prevented by regulation and inspections of seed imports.
HabitatTop of page
Weber (2003) described the habitat of E. cicutarium as ‘grass and woodland, dry open forests, shrubland, disturbed sites. A native of warm, dry and ruderal places whose establishment is facilitated by disturbances. Once established, it forms dense stands that eliminate native vegetation and successfully compete with native grasses and forbs.’
In North America E. cicutarium is common throughout all the deserts of the southwest, occupying open desert flats, mesas, pastures, hillsides and roadsides and waste places below 2,200 m (Guertin, 2003). Howard (1992) reported that this species is widespread throughout most of the United States and Canada, including tropical Hawaii and the cold, wet climate of the Pacific Northwest. E. cicutarium seems to tolerate a wide range of soil types, including clay, loamy or sandy soils, but prefers well-drained soils (Howard, 1992). It is able to grow on moderately acid to moderately alkaline soils.
In Britain, in its native range, Clapham et al. (1962) described the species as occurring on dunes, dry grassland and arable fields and waste places, mainly on sandy soils, common near the coast and widespread but local inland. In Australia, where it has been introduced, Weeds of Australia (2013) described its habit as a pioneer of disturbed and arid sites in parts of southern Australia. In New Zealand, to which it has also been introduced, Webb et al. (1988) described its habitat as roadsides, waste places, building sites, railways, riverbeds, cultivated ground, lawns and poor and dry pastures to over 1000 m altitude.
Habitat ListTop of page
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Cudney at al. (1993) and Palmer (1976) reported that E. cicutarium may affect yields in lucerne (Medicago sativa) and in perennial pasture. Blackshaw and Harker (1997) assessed its economic impact in crops of wheat (Triticum aestivum), oilseed rape (Brassica rapa), peas (Pisum sativa) and dry beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) and found that it reduced yields by up to 92% in dry beans, the worst affected crop. Odero et al. (2011) found that E. cicutarium reduced root yields in sugar beet (Beta vulgaris).
Biology and EcologyTop of page
E. cicutarium is a winter growing annual whose seeds germinate in late summer or early autumn in Mediterranean climates. In northern temperate areas, it germinates from spring to late summer (Roberts, 1986; Blackshaw and Harker, 1998). In Australia and California the plants die as soils dry out the next spring or summer. However, in Alberta, Canada, Blackshaw and Harker (1998) found that plants that emerged in August or later did not flower that season but remained as rosettes until the next spring. The flowers are self-fertile.
Stamp (1989) described the dispersal of seeds of the four introduced species of Erodium found in Californian grasslands, observing that all the species have ballistic dispersal, followed by hygroscopic activity of the awned diaspore, which facilitates burial. When dry the awn becomes tightly coiled and when wet it uncoils. Advantages of this self-burial include protection from granivorous rodents and birds, ensuring some seeds remain dormant, avoiding fire, and providing better conditions for germination (Stamp, 1989). The diaspores of E. botrys are heavier, longer, contain heavier seeds and have longer uncoiling and recoiling times for the awns than other species, including the closely related E. brachycarpum (Stamp, 1989). E. botrys can throw its seeds an average of 76.2 cm on dispersal, although surrounding vegetation would effectively reduce this distance.
Stamp (1984) investigated the self-burying of E. cicutarium. Seeds have four characteristics that help in their self-burial: long hairs on the coiled awn, a curved ‘tail’ at the end of the awn, backward-pointing barbs or bristles on the carpel, and sharply pointed carpel tips. All four structures proved important for establishment in medium gravel, but only the barbed carpels were vital for establishment in coarse gravel. The carpel tip, barbed carpel and awn-tail were essential for deeper burial in the medium gravel but only the barbed carpel was important in coarse gravel. The seeds were more likely to establish themselves in large crevices but, the chances of a seed remaining there and becoming deeply buried were greater if the crevices were small. When crevices were small and common, seeds established themselves after five uncoiling-recoiling cycles, but in large crevices eight cycles were needed.
Cox and Conran (1996) studied in Australia the effects of water stress on the life cycles of the introduced E. cicutarium and native E. crinitum. E. cicutarium responded to reduced water by significantly reducing plant size, leaf and bud number and fruit/plant biomass ratio, flower and fruit number; fruit size and total mass were unaffected. In contrast, E. crinitum was largely unaffected by drought.
Physiology and phenology
Blackshaw (1992) investigated the effects of various environmental parameters on the emergence of E. cicutarium seeds in Alberta, Canada. He found that seedlings emerged at temperatures from 5 to 30oC, but emergence was greater at lower (5 to 15oC) than at higher (20 to 30oC) temperatures. Soil moisture also affected emergence, with emergence at 5 to 15oC being greatest at the highest water levels (-0.03 and -0.28 Mpa), and progressively reducing as moisture levels were further lowered to -1.53MPa. Burial in the soil at depths greater than 1 cm led to increasingly poor emergence with greater depth until at 8-10 cm no seedlings emerged.
Van Assche and Vandelook (2006), working in Belgium, studied the effects of temperature, storage and soil burial on germination of E. cicutarium. Although fresh, unscarified seeds showed no germination, those stored dry in the laboratory for 6 months to a year gave over 60% germination when tested at day/night temperatures of 23/10oC for 10 days. Fresh, scarified seeds germinated at over 70%, although when testing seeds after 3 months dry storage this reached over 95%. Seeds germinated faster at 10oC than at either 23 or 5oC. When the authors buried fresh seeds in nylon bags in the soil and exhumed samples at 2 month intervals for 30 months, seeds germinated poorly regardless of season and length of burial. However, when ungerminated seeds were placed over silica gel in an incubator for one week before being moistened again they then gave over 90% germination. The authors suggested that this is a mechanism for ensuring that seeds near the surface only germinate after dry summer seasons, although more deeply buried seeds can remain dormant for several years.
Roberts (1986), in England, buried freshly-collected seeds of E. cicutarium in the top 7.5 cm of soil, with the soil layer being thoroughly mixed to its full depth three times a year (early spring, early summer, and autumn). Emerged seedlings were counted and removed regularly for 5 years, after which the number of viable seeds remaining was assessed. Just over 15% of the seeds emerged in the first year, and in the fifth year 4%. Most seedlings emerged in late spring and summer (May to September) with a few slightly outside this period. The flushes of germination during this period were more associated with rainfall than with soil disturbance.
Blackshaw and Entz (1995) assessed the effects of different day/night temperature regimes on the vegetative growth of E. cicutarium. Dry matter production was greatest with day temperatures of 18 to 34oC and night temperatures of 12 to 18oC. A higher night temperature seriously reduced dry matter production.
Although the plants of E. cicutarium themselves are relatively short-lived annuals or sometimes biennials, their seeds can survive for 5 years or longer when buried in the soil.
Population size and structure
In the Mojave desert (and elsewhere), atmospheric nitrogen deposition may change the balance between native species and introduced aliens. Brooks (2003) investigated the possible effects by applying low rates of either nitrogen (as ammonium nitrate) or NPK (15-15-15) to plots and measuring species richness and biomass at peak biomass (in April or March). Alien plant density increased and native plant density decreased with application of either ammonium nitrate or NPK to plots.
In experiments on the effects of adding phosphate to a wheat (Triticum aestivum) crop, Blackshaw and Molnar (2009) found that E. cicutarium responded to phosphate application by producing greater shoot biomass. This happened especially if the fertilizer was broadcast before or after wheat sowing rather than when it was positioned with the seed or mid row-banded.
E. cicutarium occurs in many different environments, from northern and southern temperate climates to deserts, and is associated with many species. Howard (1992) listed some associated range species in western states of North America. In Californian rangelands E. cicutarium is but one of a range of Mediterranean annual species which have displaced the native perennial species (Heady, 1958).
ClimateTop of page
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Tolerated||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Df - Continental climate, wet all year||Tolerated||Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)|
|Ds - Continental climate with dry summer||Preferred||Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Plant Viruses Online (2013) lists the following as attacking E. cicutarium: beet pseudo-yellows closterovirus, filaree red leaf luteovirus and subterranean clover red leaf luteovirus.
The brown argus butterfly (Aricia agestis) has changed its habitat in recent years and now feeds on E. cicutarium where it occurs in grasslands in Britain (Menéndez et al., 2008). E. cicutariumalso serves as a host of the tobacco budworm (Heliothis virscens), a pest of cotton and tobacco in western USA (Henneberry and Watson, 1995).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
E. cicutarium has ballistic dispersal, followed by hygroscopic activity of the awned diaspore, which facilitates burial. Seeds are forcibly ejected up to 50 cm away, but this distance is almost certainly reduced by nearby vegetation impeding the seed. The fruits can also move themselves along the ground and into crevices by hygroscopic movement of the long awn (Stamp, 1984).
Natural dispersal (non-biotic)
Vector transmission (biotic)
Both rodents and ants eat E. cicutarium seeds and will carry seeds to food caches or nests. In both instances, seeds that are not eaten may later germinate (Harmon and Stamp, 1992; Guertin, 2003).
The seeds, with their long, coiled tails and barbs, get caught up in the fur, feathers and fleeces of mammals and birds and this is probably how seeds were taken to North America (and Australasia), and one of the ways in which seeds were dispersed over long distances in the United States (Mensing and Byrne, 1998).
Seeds of E. cicutarium were almost certainly accidentally introduced to North America and to Australasia, carried in the fur, hair or wool of animals being transported from Europe to newly settled countries. The same pathways could carry seeds to other countries with porous overland borders.
Intentional introduction is unlikely.
Pathway CausesTop of page
ImpactTop of page
Blackshaw and Harker (1998) reported that E. cicutarium was becoming an increasingly important weed of early planted spring crops in western Canada. Similarly, Francis et al. (2012) reported that in Canada it is becoming an increasingly important weed of cereal, canola, legume, sugarbeet and potato crops, particularly with the adoption of conservation tillage, and is both a field weed and seed contaminant of forage crops.
E. cicutarium is regarded as an environmental weed in Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania (Weeds of Australia, 2013). The same source goes on to describe it as ‘a fierce competitor that crowds out or out-competes native plants by producing many seeds that germinate early, depleting soil water levels, and preventing sunlight from reaching the seedlings of other species that germinate later.’
Economic ImpactTop of page
E. cicutarium provides seasonal forage for rodents, desert tortoise, big game animals and livestock (Howard, 1992). Thornber (1906) reported it to be excellent forage for all kinds of stock, especially sheep, as well as a valuable hay plant, and encouraged its further spread in Arizona and other portions of the south-west. However, its negative qualities include reducing crop yields (Francis et al., 2012) and devaluing wool and fleeces (Australian Wool Testing Authority, 2013). It may also outcompete other forage species, since it tends to crowd them out in the spring and they may not recover by late spring and summer when E. cicutarium dies back (Schroder, 1998).
Connor (1997) mentioned photosensitization in lambs and calves, in both Australia and New Zealand, that is believed to be caused by species of Erodium, although no photosensitizing agent was identified. Stroebel (2002) found that the related species E. moschatum can induce photosensitivity in sheep if ingested in large quantities.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
In North America, E. cicutarium provides seasonal forage for rodents, desert tortoise, big game animals and livestock, and its seeds are eaten by upland game birds, songbirds and rodents (Howard, 1992). The plants are also eaten by both juvenile and mature desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) (Hazard et al., 2009). Schiffman (1984), cited in Cal-IPC (2013), reported that the seeds of E. cicutarium are eaten by the endangered kangaroo rats (Dipodomys ingens) in Californian grasslands.
In the Sonoran Desert in southwestern USA it competes with native herbaceous and grass seedlings for moisture, nutrients and space (Hawkins, 2002, cited in Guerin, 2003).
According to Howard (1992), the prostrate stems of E. cicutarium can help spread ground fires, and dead plants contribute to fire loads. Frequent prescribed burning in western USA favours this species over annual grasses.
Impact on biodiversity
E. cicutarium is considered an environmental weed in parts of Australia, and is regarded as a serious threat to one or more plant communities in Victoria (Weeds of Australia, 2013). E. cicutarium and other plants, many of Mediterranean origin, have largely replaced the former perennial native grasslands of California (Heady, 1958).
UsesTop of page
Howard (1992) described E. cicutarium as ‘important forage for cattle, horses, and domestic sheep in California, Nevada, and Arizona.’ Thornber (1906) described it as valuable fodder for livestock, especially sheep, in Arizona
The species’ antioxidant and other chemical properties may have medicinal applications (Francis et al., 2012).
Uses ListTop of page
- Host of pest
- Poisonous to mammals
Detection and InspectionTop of page
All Erodium species have characteristic fruits, with an awn that twists into a corkscrew shape when dry and untwists when wet, helping the seed to move across the soil surface and to bury the sharply pointed mericarp into crevices in the soil.
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Other species of Erodium are native to Europe and temperate Asia and several of these have been carried round the world by humans and their accompanying livestock. In the United States, the native E. texanum often grows in association with E. cicutarium, but can be easily distinguished by its differently shaped leaves (Guertin, 2003). In New Zealand, E. cicutarium can be confused with the also introduced E. moschatum; Healy (1982) gave a useful table of differences, including that the latter species sometimes smells of musk and that its leaves are less finely divided.
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.
Normal phytosanitary regulation ought to prevent the spread E. cicutarium in contaminated grass or crop seed to new countries.
Moderate fire kills mature plants, but grass fires are usually light to moderate and young seedlings can survive such fires. Seeds in the litter layer may not be harmed by moderate grass fires, but severe fires will kill seed unless it is buried 1.25 or more cm deep (Howard, 1992).
Physical control of isolated plants or cultivation of extensive populations would presumably give control, but the cultivation or physical removal would probably need to remove the fairly deep tap root, and buried seeds may also be a residual problem. E. cicutarium responds well to a lack of vegetation cover, and any sort of cultivation or other disturbance is likely to encourage the species.
Landowners who wish to restrict the spread of E. cicutarium to unaffected areas need to take special care not to move seeds with livestock, in clothes, or on vehicles.
The Department of Agriculture and Food WA (2013) lists a number of herbicides for the control of species of Erodium spp. in cereal crops (including wheat, barley, oats and triticum), available at: http://archive.agric.wa.gov.au/objtwr/imported_assets/content/pw/weed/erodium20110510_web.pdf.
Especially in grassland or pastures, chemical control of E. cicutarium is rarely useful because herbicides will also damage useful species as well as weedy ones. Integrated control is much more likely to be successful (see IPM below).
Schroder (1998), in Australia, reiterated the old rule that a dense competitive pasture is the best way to deal with E. cicutarium and other species. He suggested sowing early maturing cultivars of subterranean clover, which have a high seed yield and a high hard seed content. Such cultivars can flower and set copious seed before the dry weather starts in spring, leading to a dense germination of clover to compete with Erodium spp. and other undesirable species. Alternatively, dense perennial-based pastures of species like lucerne (Medicago sativa), phalaris (Phalarisaquatica) or cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) could be established, which would ensure a dense cover in autumn that can prevent invasion by Erodium spp. (Schroder, 1998).
Control by utilization
E. cicutarium can be grazed by livestock, but low fertility conditions and grazing are likely to promote the growth of Erodium spp. at the expense of other grassland species (McCown and Williams, 1968).
ReferencesTop of page
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PIER, 2014. Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk., Honolulu, USA: HEAR, University of Hawaii. http://www.hear.org/pier/index.html
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USDA-NRCS, 2013. The PLANTS Database. Greensboro, North Carolina, USA: National Plant Data Team. https://plants.sc.egov.usda.gov
Webb C J, Sykes W R, Garnock-Jones P J, 1988. Flora of New Zealand Volume IV: Naturalized Pteridophytes, Gymnosperms, Dicotyledons. Christchurch, New Zealand: Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. 1365 pp.
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20/05/13: Original text by:
Ian Popay, consultant, New Zealand, with the support of Landcare Research.
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