Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Acacia cyclops
(coastal wattle)



Acacia cyclops (coastal wattle)


  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Acacia cyclops
  • Preferred Common Name
  • coastal wattle
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. cyclops is an extremely weedy species, although slow growing. Once established over large areas, it is difficult to remove or replace. Cronk and Fuller (1995)...
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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Acacia cyclops A. Cunn. ex G. Don

Preferred Common Name

  • coastal wattle

International Common Names

  • French: mimosa cyclope

Local Common Names

  • Australia: circle-eye-seeded acacia; coastal wattle; western Australia coastal wattle
  • Germany: Zyklop- Akazie
  • Italy: mimosa cyclops
  • South Africa: red eye; rooikrans

EPPO code

  • ACACC (Acacia cyclops)

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. cyclops is an extremely weedy species, although slow growing. Once established over large areas, it is difficult to remove or replace. Cronk and Fuller (1995) report that it forms dense impenetrable stands that shade out native vegetation and that fire promotes spread into natural vegetation. Henderson (2001) reports that it is invasive in South African forest gaps, dunes and along roadsides and watercourses. Binggeli (1999) classed A. cyclops as a highly invasive species. It is a category 2 declared invader in South Africa according to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 1983 (Government of South Africa, 1983; Henderson, 2001). It is present in California, USA (USDA-NRCS, 2002) and Cronk and Fuller (1995) report that this species has is invasive there though this requires verification. It is also present in Portugal and is exhibiting invasive characteristics in Europe.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Mimosoideae
  •                                 Genus: Acacia
  •                                     Species: Acacia cyclops

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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There has been some debate about the placement of Australian wattles in the genus Acacia. Between 1977 and 1989, Pedley of the Queensland herbarium proposed splitting Acacia into several segregate genera supported by findings of workers in France during the late 1960s and 1970s (Pedley, 1987). Pedley also proposed the reinstatement of the genus Racosperma for the majority of Australian wattles. To date, this has not been accepted, based on the argument that the name Racosperma was not validly published in 1835 (Hall and Johnson, 1993), and the need for further research into the systematics of this taxon (Lister et al., 1996).

The specific name cyclops is from Greek, meaning 'round-eye' alluding to the coiling tendency of the fruits.


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A. cyclops is a dense, evergreen, bushy shrub, often multi-stemmed. It can also grow as a small tree to 3-8 m tall, with a trunk of 20 cm in diameter and a rounded crown (NAS, 1980; Little, 1983). In windy coastal sites, it forms hedges less than 0.5 m high. A. cyclops has light-green foliage and simple flattened phyllodes (modified leafstalks), narrowly oblong, varnished when young, and growing in a downward vertical position. Phyllodes are 4-9 cm long and 0.5-1.3 cm broad, nearly straight; blunt with a short, hard point curved to one side, tapering to a long-pointed base; stiff and leathery, glabrous, with 3-7 main veins arising from the base, and 1 small gland on the upper edge at the base. Twigs are slender, angled and glabrous (NAS, 1980; Little, 1983). Flowers are lemon yellow, in clusters of two to three. Pods are narrowly oblong, 4-12 cm long and 0.8-1.2 cm broad, flattened, curved or twisted, greyish brown to dark brown and leathery. The pods are not shed but remain on the tree, exposing their seeds to predators and dispersers (NAS, 1980). Seeds are elliptical, flattened, 5 mm long, dark brown and encircled by a thick, red, thread-like oily stalk or funicle (Little, 1983).

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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A. cyclops is native to southern Western Australia. At the western end of the Lake Warden System, it frequently grows behind Melaleuca cuticularis (Jaensch et al., 1988), and is now currently spreading from sandy or sandstone soils into coastal bush and heathland (NAS, 1980; Duke, 1983).

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.

Last updated: 17 Dec 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Planted Reference Notes


Burkina FasoPresentIntroducedPlanted
Cabo VerdePresentIntroducedPlanted
South AfricaPresentIntroducedInvasiveFirst reported: 1830s


IsraelPresentIntroducedFirst reported: 1920 - 1929


SpainPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroduced

North America

United StatesPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedInvasiveOriginal citation: Cronk and Fuller (1995)


-South AustraliaPresentNative
-Western AustraliaPresentNative

History of Introduction and Spread

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A. cyclops has become a very successful colonizer in South Africa and is classified as a weed there (Moll and Trinder-Smith, 1992; Henderson, 1998; Higgins et al., 1999). Cronk and Fuller (1995) speculate that it first arrived in South Africa when introduced to Baron von Ludwig's private garden in the 1830s and was used to plant the Cape Flats from approximately 1847. It has been widely introduced outside its native range, particularly across Africa, where it has been used for dune stabilization, for firewood, as a fodder tree and as an ornamental. It has also been introduce to coastal Portugal and the Mediterranean.

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of this species will depend on the degree to which it continues to be promoted as a species for dune stabilization and as a source of fuel and fodder.


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In its native range, A. cyclops grows in open scrub and rarely forms dense stands (Weber, 2003).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
LittoralCoastal areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

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Physiology and Phenology

In Australia, flowering occurs during September to March and pods mature in January to February (NAS, 1980; Roughley, 1986).

Reproductive Biology

A. cyclops reproduces from seed (NAS, 1980), rarely coppicing and mature trees do not survive felling. Seed germination is enhanced after fire.

Environmental Requirements

A. cyclops is found in arid and semi-arid subtropical areas with mean annual temperatures of 14-19°C and an annual rainfall of 200-1400 mm tolerating very long dry seasons. It is slightly tolerant of frost (Little, 1983; NAS, 1980; Yantasath et al., 1993) and sensitive to waterlogging. It can live in areas with a uniform, bimodal or winter rainfall distribution in Australia, whereas it usually receives summer rainfall in Africa. A. cyclops grows well on calcareous sand or limestone and prefers well drained, sandy or quartzitic soils, but can survive on drier sites such as dune crests (NAS, 1980), on sodic or alkaline soils and those with impeded drainage. It is a lowland species, growing from sea level to 300 m altitude.

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
-15 35 0 300

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 1
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 14 19
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 26 33
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 3 10


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration212number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall2001400mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • impeded

Soil reaction

  • alkaline

Soil texture

  • light

Special soil tolerances

  • sodic

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Zulubius acaciaphagus Herbivore

Notes on Natural Enemies

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No significant pests have been recorded for this species, although members of the seed-predating genus Zulubius may be potential biocontrol agents in South Africa where A. cyclops has become invasive (Holmes et al., 1987; Schaffner, 1987). Acizzia uncatoides, a psyllid pest, has been recorded from ornamental specimens in the Canary Islands (Siverio and Montesdeoca, 1990). Recent trials of Melanterius ?servulus, an Australian seed-feeding weevil suggest its potential as a biological control agent.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Birds and mammals, including mice and baboons, disperse seeds (Cronk and Fuller, 1995), and Weber (2003) lists ants and small mammals among the seed dispers. A. cyclops was intentionally introduced to South Africa where it has become invasive, and is an intentionally introduced exotic in many other countries.

Impact Summary

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

Environmental Impact

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A. cyclops produces large quantities of litter which leads to increased soil nitrogen content (Weber, 2003), and Witkowski, (1991) concluded that the nitrogen status of the fynbos and strandveld ecosystems is elevated by the invasion of alien Acacia species. A. cyclops is also reported to use high volumes of water, ranking highest in its water consumption among the top twenty-five invader plant species in South Africa (Anon., 2003), and Working for Water (2003) suggest that the loss of native plants to A. cyclops thickets leaves the soil bare and vulnerable to wind and water erosion.

Impact: Biodiversity

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In South Africa, A. cyclops invades the lowland fynbos of Cape Province and is also established in mountain forest. It is beginning to invade southern forest, eastern Cape Forest and succulent karroo, the dense cover shading out native vegetation (Cronk and Fuller, 1995).

Social Impact

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According to Azorin (1995), A. cyclops has become an important source of firewood, for subsistence use and to generate income for the economically disadvantaged in the southern Cape Peninsula, South Africa, thus having a very positive social impact.

Risk and Impact Factors

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  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control


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A. cyclops is used for coastal sand dune stabilization as it is tolerant of wind, salt spray, sand blasts and soil salinity (NAS, 1980). It is planted as an ornamental in the Canary Islands, Spain (Siverio and Montesdeoca, 1990).

As the branches and trunk of A. cyclops never exceed 20 cm in diameter, using the logs for firewood is recommended (NAS, 1980; Duke, 1983; Yantasath et al., 1993), and it is a popular source of firewood in South Africa.

Fodder is the main non-wood use of A. cyclops. Goats and antelope browse the phyllodes in South Africa. Seed may be suitable for cattle feed after it is crushed (NAS, 1980). Studies by Milton (1981) showed that annual litter fall in the South African Cape, comprising 60% foliage and 30% reproductive structures, averaged 7 MT/ha, representing double the value of evergreen scrub communities in winter rainfall regions. Due to its high tannin content, the species could serve as an astringent (Duke, 1983).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed


  • Erosion control or dune stabilization


  • Charcoal
  • Fuelwood


  • Essential oils

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical

Wood Products

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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.

Weber (2003) states that A. cyclops may be controlled by cutting stems close to the ground. Combinations of clearing and burning stands are used to reduce the soil seed bank and the tree rarely resprouts after fire damage or felling. Working for Water (2003) state that seedlings and young plants may be pulled out by hand and that medium sized A. cyclops should be ring-barked or cut below the surface.

Biological control of A. cyclops using three Melantarius species is currently under investigation (Working for Water, 2003), and Impson et al. (2000) reported that adult and larval seed-feeding weevils Melanterius ?servulus destroyed up to 95% of A. cyclops seeds at release sites in Western Cape Province. Continued research into the effectiveness of M. ?servulus as a biocontrol agent is focusing on weevil dispersal, interference by birds, a native alydid bug and rodents, and asynchrony in the phenologies of the weevils and A. cyclops (Impson et al., 2000).


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Allen ON; Allen EK, 1981. The Leguminosae. A source book of characteristics, uses and nodulation. London, UK: MacMillan Publishers Ltd.

Anon, 2003. How much water do alien plants use in South Africa? Gateway to Knowledge on Alien Invasive Plants. South Africa: Water Research Commission.

Ansari RA; Khanzada N; Khan MA, 1993. Acacias for Rural, Industrial, and Environmental Development in Pakistan. In: Awang K, Taylor DA, eds. Acacias for Rural, Industrial, and Environmental Development. Bangkok, Thailand: Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Research and FAO (United Nations), 63-70.

Azorin E, 1995. Invasive Acacias and the firewood industry. Aliens, September 1997, 9-10.

Binggeli P, 1999. Invasive woody plants.

Boland DJ; Turnbull JW, 1981. Selection of Australian trees other than eucalypts for trials as fuelwood species in developing countries. Australian Forestry, 44(4):235-246; 53 ref.

Bootha AT; Visser JH; Moore LD, 1989. Evaluation of possible fluoride injury to vegetation in the vicinity of an industrial site near Cape Town. South African Journal of Science, 85(11):741-745.

Cossalter C, 1986. Introducing Australian Acacias in Dry Tropical Africa. In: Turnbull JW, ed. Australian Acacias in Developing Countries. ACIAR Proceedings, 16:118-123.

Cronk QCB; Fuller JL, 1995. Plant invaders: the threat to natural ecosystems. London, UK; Chapman & Hall Ltd, xiv + 241 pp.

Duke JA, 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. Unpublished. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA: Centre for New Crops and Plant Products. World Wide Web page at

El-Lakany MH, 1986. Use of Australian Acacias in North Africa. In: Turnbull JW, ed. Australian Acacias in Developing Countries. ACIAR Proceedings, 16:116-117.

George AS, 1981. Flora of Australia. Volume 1: Introduction. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publishing Service.

Government of South Africa, 1983. Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 1983. Act No. 43 of 1983. Pretoria, South Africa: Department of Agriculture.

Hall N; Johnson LAS, 1993. The names of Acacias of New South Wales with a guide to pronunciation of botanical names. Royal Botanic Gardens: Sydney.

Harden GJ, 1991. Flora of New South Wales. Volume 2: New South Wales, Australia: New South Wales University Press.

Henderson L, 1998. Invasive alien woody plants of the southern and southwestern Cape region, South Africa. Bothalia, 28(1):91-112; 50 ref.

Henderson L, 2001. Alien Weeds and Invasive Plants. Plant Protection Research Institute Handbook No. 12. Cape Town, South Africa: Paarl Printers.

Higgins SI; Richardson DM; Cowling RM; Trinder-Smith TH, 1999. Predicting the landscape-scale distribution of alien plants and their threat to plant diversity. Conservation Biology, 13(2):303-313.

Holmes PM; Dennill GB; Moll EJ, 1987. Effects of feeding by native alydid insects on the seed viability of an alien invasive weed, Acacia cyclops.. South African Journal of Science, 83(10):580-581; 21 ref.

Houerou HN le, 1980. Browse in northern Africa. In: Houerou HN le, ed. Browse in Africa: The Current State of Knowledge. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: International Livestock Centre for Africa, 55-82.

ILDIS, 2002. International Legume Database and Information Service. University of Southampton, UK.

Impson FAC; Moran VC; Hoffmann JH; Donnelly D; Stewart K, 2000. Recent developments in the biological control of invasive Acacias in South Africa: Melanterius ?servulus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) against Acacia cyclops. In: Spencer NR, ed. Proceedings of the X International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds, 4-14 July 1999, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA, 729-734.

Jaensch RP; Vervest RM; Hewish MJ, 1988. Waterbids in nature reserves of South-Western Australia, 1981-1985: reserve accounts. Royal Australian Ornithologists Union Report, 30:1-290.

Laurence GHM, 1955. Taxonomy of Vascular Plants. New York, USA: The MacMillan Company.

Lister PR; Holford P; Haigh T; Morrison DA, 1996. Acacia in Australia: ethnobotany and potential food crop. Progress in new crops: Proceedings of the Third National Symposium, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, 22-25 October, 1996., 228-236; 28 ref.

Little EL Jr, 1983. Common fuelwood crops. A handbook for their identification. Morgantown, WV: Commune-Tech Associates.

Marcar NE; Crawford DF; Leppert PL; Jovanovic T; Floyd R; Farrow R, 1995. Trees for saltland: a guide to selecting native species for Australia. Melbourne, Australia: CSIRO.

Marcar NE; Hussain RW; Arunin S; Beetson T, 1991. Trials with Australian and other Acacia species on salt-affected land in Pakistan, Thailand and Australia. In: Turnbull JW, ed. Advances in tropical acacia research. Proceedings of an international workshop held in Bangkok, Thailand, 11-15 February 1991. ACIAR-Proceedings-Series, No. 35:229-232; 3 ref.

Milton SJ, 1981. Litterfall of the exotic acacias in the Southeastern cape. Journal of South African Botany, 47(2):147-155.

Milton SJ; Moll EJ, 1982. Phenology of Australian acacias in the S.W. Cape, South Africa, and its implications for management. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 84(4):295-327; 4 pp. of ref.

Moll EJ; Trinder-Smith T, 1992. Invasion and control of alien woody plants on the Cape Peninsula Mountains, South Africa 30 years on. Biological Conservation, 60(2):135-143

National Academy of Sciences, 1980. Firewood Crops: Shrub and Tree Species for Energy Production. Washington DC, USA; National Academy of Sciences.

Pedley L, 1987. Generic Status of Acacia sensu lato. Australian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter, 53, 87-91.

Roughley RJ, 1987. Acacias and their root-nodule bacteria. In: Turnbull JW, ed. Australian Acacias in Developing Countries. ACIAR Proceedings, 16:45-49.

Schaffner JC, 1987. The genus Zulubius Bergroth (Heteroptera: Alydidae). Journal of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa, 50(2):313-322

Siverio A; Montesdeoca M, 1990. Presence in Tenerife of a new pest, Psylla uncatoides Ferris et Kyver, on Acacia ciclops Link. 'Acacia majorera' and other ornamentals. Boletin de Sanidad Vegetal, Plagas, 16(1):19-23

USDA-NRCS, 2002. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, USA.

Weber E, 2003. Invasive plant species of the world: A reference guide to environmental weeds. Wallingford, UK: CAB International, 548 pp.

Witkowski ETF, 1991. Effects of invasive alien acacias on nutrient cycling in the coastal lowlands of the Cape fynbos. Journal of Applied Ecology, 28(1):1-15; 40 ref.

Working for Water, 2003. Working for Water Programme. South Africa: Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.

Yantasath K; Anusontpornperm S; Utistham T; Soontornrangson W; Watanatham S, 1993. Acacias for fuelwood and charcoal In: Awang K, Taylor DA, eds. Acacias for Rural, Industrial and Environmental Development. Proceedings of the Second meeting of Consultative Group for Research and Development of Acacias (COGREDA). Udorn Thani, Thailand: Winrock International and FAO, 144-152.

Youssef EMA; Badawy ESM; Heikal EA; Sakr SS, 1991. Studies on the germination of different Acacia species. Bulletin of Faculty of Agriculture, University of Cairo, 42(3):849-867.

Distribution References

CABI, Undated. Compendium record. Wallingford, UK: CABI

CABI, Undated a. CABI Compendium: Status inferred from regional distribution. Wallingford, UK: CABI

CABI, Undated b. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI

ILDIS, 2002. International Legume Database and Information Service., UK: University of Southampton.

Jaensch RP, Vervest RM, Hewish MJ, 1988. Waterbids in nature reserves of South-Western Australia, 1981-1985: reserve accounts. In: Royal Australian Ornithologists Union Report, 30 1-290.

Seebens H, Blackburn T M, Dyer E E, Genovesi P, Hulme P E, Jeschke J M, Pagad S, Pyšek P, Winter M, Arianoutsou M, Bacher S, Blasius B, Brundu G, Capinha C, Celesti-Grapow L, Dawson W, Dullinger S, Fuentes N, Jäger H, Kartesz J, Kenis M, Kreft H, Kühn I, Lenzner B, Liebhold A, Mosena A (et al), 2017. No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide. Nature Communications. 8 (2), 14435.

Siverio A, Montesdeoca M, 1990. Presence in Tenerife of a new pest, Psylla uncatoides Ferris et Kyver, on Acacia ciclops Link. 'Acacia majorera' and other ornamentals. (Presencia en Tenerife de una nueva plaga, Psylla uncatoides Ferris et Kyver, sobre Acacia ciclops Link. 'Acacia majorera' y otras ornamentales.). Boletín de Sanidad Vegetal, Plagas. 16 (1), 19-23.

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.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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