Euphorbia heterophylla (wild poinsettia)
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Euphorbia heterophylla L. (1753)
Preferred Common Name
- wild poinsettia
Other Scientific Names
- Euphorbia geniculata Ort. (1797)
- Euphorbia prunifolia Jacq.
- Euphorbia taiwaniana
- Euphorbia zonosperma Müll
- Poinsettia geniculata (Ort.) Klotzsch & Garcke
- Poinsettia heterophylla (L.) Klotzsch & Garcke
International Common Names
- English: Mexican fireplant; painted spurge; red milkweed; wild pointsettia
- Spanish: gota de sangre; huchapurga; leche de sapo; leche vana
- French: poinsettia d'Amerique
- Portuguese: amendoim-bravo
Local Common Names
- Argentina: lecherón
- Brazil: adeus-brasil; café-do-diabo; leiteira; mata-brasil
- Italy: poinsettia d'America
- EPHHL (Euphorbia heterophylla)
- EPHPR (Euphorbia prunifolia)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Euphorbiales
- Family: Euphorbiaceae
- Genus: Euphorbia
- Species: Euphorbia heterophylla
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
E. prunifolia (=E. geniculata) is sometimes treated as a separate species, as by Kostermans et al. (1987) who distinguish it from E. heterophylla mainly by its entire leaves and longer petioles (2.5-6 cm), but it is here treated as part of the same broader species. Conversely E. cyanthophora, which has red bracts and is sometimes treated as a synonym, is treated here as a separate species in accordance with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK.
DescriptionTop of page
Obovate to lanceolate leaves are formed along the stem, with secondary branches sprouting from axillary buds. Basal leaves are long-petiolate and alternate. Upper leaves are sessile and opposite or verticillate, forming a cluster of bracts, often with a pale patch at the base, subtending the terminal inflorescence. The latter consists of a dense cluster of small, short-stalked cyathia. Each cyathium comprises a cup-shaped involucre with inconspicuous male flowers producing a single stamen only, and a female flower, without sepals or petals, producing a 3-lobed, yellowish-green fruit.
E. heterophylla shows variation in morphological features, mainly in leaf shape. Such variability has led to divergent opinions about the different species of the genus. Oliveira and Sa-Haiad (1988) have made taxonomic studies of E. heterophylla and E. cyanthophora. Their studies of the leaf anatomy revealed a wide variation in leaf shape which was not related to geographical distribution. However, both species were taxonomically distinguishable, using other characteristics.
Seeds are 2.5-3 mm wide and 2.5 mm long, oblong to oboval and dark brown to black. The surface is pitted with transverse ridges.
The seedling have elliptical-short smooth petiolated cotyledonous leaves, green or reddish-green. First true leaves are opposite obovate to lanceolate with an acute apex and are shiny green (Kissman and Groth, 1993).
DistributionTop of page
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: 25 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Congo, Democratic Republic of the||Present|
|South Africa||Present, Localized|
|Bhutan||Present||Original citation: Parker, 1992|
|Sri Lanka||Present, Localized|
|Cuba||Present||Original citation: Crespo-Mesa and Dierksmeier (1989)|
|Nicaragua||Present||Original citation: Ottabong et al., 1991|
|Puerto Rico||Present||Original citation: Almodovar-Vega et al., 1988b|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present, Localized|
|United States||Present, Localized|
|-New South Wales||Present||Original citation: Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992|
|-Queensland||Present||Original citation: Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992|
|Federated States of Micronesia||Present|
|Papua New Guinea||Present, Localized|
|-Fernando de Noronha||Present|
|-Mato Grosso do Sul||Present|
|-Rio de Janeiro||Present|
|-Rio Grande do Norte||Present|
|-Rio Grande do Sul||Present|
|Peru||Present||Original citation: Ugaz & Espinoza, 1971|
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Allium cepa (onion)||Liliaceae||Other|
|Arachis hypogaea (groundnut)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Glycine max (soyabean)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)||Poaceae||Main|
|Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)||Solanaceae||Other|
|Vigna unguiculata (cowpea)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Zea mays (maize)||Poaceae||Main|
Growth StagesTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Seeds are produced in great quantities with high viability. Seeds recently shed are dormant. Light and alternate temperatures (25/3°C) stimulate germination (Kissman and Groth, 1993). Each fruit bears three seeds which are expelled when the fruit is ripe. In Brazil, seeds germinate and seedlings emerge throughout most of the year. Seed longevity is high, and seeds may remain viable with a low dormancy level after being eaten by birds (Kissman and Groth, 1993).
Bannon et al. (1978) found that significant differences in germination occurred between two seed lots from different years. An alternating temperature regime of 25 and 35°C was optimal for germination and no effect of light was noted at these temperatures. However, light increased germination at constant temperatures of 25 and 35°C, and decreased germination at alternating temperatures of 10 and 35°C. Storage of E. heterophylla seeds at 36°C for 2-12 weeks caused a significant decrease in dormancy as compared to corresponding storage at 5°C. Seed moisture levels below 7.7% did not affect viability at 5 or 25°C after a storage period of 3-9 months. Seed viability decreased rapidly when seeds were stored for 3 months at 25°C with a moisture content of 10.8%, or at 5 or 25°C with a moisture content of 18.6%. Seeds buried in the autumn at a depth of 5 cm germinated in the field 9 months later. Field germination decreased as sowing depth increased.
E. heterophylla seeds germinate over a wide range of conditions, which explains why the plant is becoming an increasingly serious problem; germination was at least 95% when exposed to a solution of pH 2.5-10 or a solution with osmotic potential of up to -0.8 MPa. Light was not required for germination. Seed germination occured at temperatures ranging from 20-40°C with maximum germination (97%) at 35°C (Brecke, 1995). Etejere amd Okoko (1989) reported 95% seed viability. Seed weight increased by 63% after 36 hours of water imbibition. Optimum germination of the seeds occurred at 30-35°C. The young seedlings emerged from depths of up to 9 cm with maximum emergence at 1-3 cm.
Dorney and Wilson (1990) found that seedlings established best when left on the soil surface, particularly when covered by mulch. Seeds had no dormancy period and germinated in response to sufficient water. Machado-Neto and Pitelli (1980) studied the effect of sowing depth on emergence rate and found that the highest emergence rates occurred on the 5th day from seeds located at depths up to 2 cm, on the sixth day at 4-6 cm, and the seventh day at 8-10 cm. Average percentage germination was 21.3% with sowing at 0 cm and 79.0-84.7% at 2-10 cm; similar results were obtained by Cerdeira and Voll (1980). The data clearly demonstrated the ability of the weed to germinate from considerable depths and this is considered a factor in the aggressiveness of the plant.
A regrowth of the axillary buds of young plants is observed if a mechanical treatment or contact herbicide destroys the upper leaves. This process occurs if enough light is received (Kissman and Groth, 1993). Furthermore, Langston et al. (1984) have shown that E. heterophylla has unusual and remarkable ability to regenerate by adventitious buds developing from below the cotyledonary node after shoot excision. There was 100% recovery after such excision at cotyledon and 4-leaf stages. Of 17 weed species studied, the only others to show even partial recovery were Aeschynomene indica and A. virginica.
E. heterophylla is a C4 plant and its growth habit is highly dependent on light intensity. Paliwal and Ilangovan (1988) performed autoecological studies on several species, including E. heterophylla. They showed that photosynthetic processes and the rate of photosynthesis decreased with increasing leaf age. For E. heterophylla a good correlation was evident between the photosynthetic rate, stomatal resistance, protein content, transpiration rate, biomass, photosynthetic pigments and nitrate reductase activity.
Soyabean cultivars in competition with E. heterophylla at three densities and two periods of occurrence were studied by Chemale and Fleck (1982) in Brazil. Soyabean seed yield was reduced by weed competition; the number of pods and seeds decreasing with increasing weed density. Only the highest density reduced stem diameter and node numbers.
Weed populations varied most markedly with changing seasons and different levels of fertilizer application in different crops. E. heterophylla was among the species most promoted by fertilizers (Marnotte, 1984).
Remison (1978) found that in the glasshouse, cowpea competition with E. heterophylla decreased the height of the plant, the number of nodes, peduncles and green leaves and the weight of pods and seeds and the decrease was greater with increasing density of the associated weed. In competition with the weed, cowpea did not respond to the application of fertilizers. In field experiments, competition from the natural weed flora affected the number of days to 50% flowering as well as other yield components of four cowpea cultivars studied. The yield of the climbing variety, Dinner, was least affected by competition whilst the semi-erect variety, Ife brown, was affected most.
Mohamed-Saleem and Fawusi (1983) studied the allelopathic effects of plant material of several plants, including that of E. heterophylla, on tomato, pepper and sorghum. They found that increasing amounts of decomposed weeds significantly reduced germination and seedling growth, although E. heterophylla had the least effect.
Allelopathic effects of seven weed species on pumpkin and aubergine were studied under greenhouse conditions by Almodovar-Vega et al. (1988a, b). Root exudates from the roots of several plants, including E. heterophylla, decreased the vine length and dry weight of pumpkin seedlings when added to their growth medium.
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Nymphs and adults of the mycophagous thrips Euphysothrips minozzii were found feeding on fungi infecting Lablab purpureus, Pennisetum glaucum and E. heterophylla in the field at Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India (David et al., 1973).
Laycock et al. (1977) reported that weed control in Ghana with herbicides significantly reduced the percentage of maize plants attacked and the number of larvae per plant of the stem borer Sesamia botanephaga [S. nonagrioides botanephaga]. Observations by Ba-Angood and Ba-Angood (1977) in the Sudan showed that Poekilocerus hieroglyphicus [P. bufonicus hieroglyphicus] preferred Calotropis procera and E. heterophylla. On a dry matter basis, it consumed 6.02 g of E. heterophylla in 6 days.
Topham and Beardsley (1973) found that E. geniculata and E. heterophylla were preferred to the previously known species as nectar sources for the Papua New Guinea sugarcane weevil parasite, Lixophaga sphenophori.
Total longevity of adults of the hemipteran Euschistus heros fed on E. heterophylla was significantly higher than when fed on other host plants (Panizzi et al., 1988). Inserra et al. (1989) reported that weed hosts of Rotylenchulus reniformis in ornamental nurseries of southern Florida included several weeds, among them E. heterophylla.
A survey of wild plants in and around cotton fields at two localities in Thailand showed that several weeds, including E. heterophylla, were acting as reservoirs or providing shelter for Bemisia tabaci, which is an increasingly important pest with the extension of irrigated cotton cultivation. Evidence was found that E. heterophylla can act as important sources of populations of B. tabaci that infest the 'out-of-season' cotton (Nachapong and Mabbett, 1979).
The potential of E. heterophylla as a food plant for Tetranychus urticae was studied in Cuba by Perez et al. (1987). P. bufonicus hieroglyphicus preferred Calotropis procera, Vicia faba and E. heterophylla, as reported by Ba-Angood et al. (1975) in a comparative study of the food plants of some species of Acrididae.
E. heterophylla has been reported as a host plant for R. reniformis by MacGowan (1989). Reproduction of Meloidogyne javanica in weeds, including E. heterophylla, was investigated by Lordello et al. (1988).
Debrot and Centeno (1985) determined in Venezuela that a striking yellow mosaic frequently observed on E. heterophylla was caused by Euphorbia mosaic bigeminivirus. The virus was transmitted to healthy E. heterophylla and E. prunifolia by B. tabaci, but not through seeds of E. heterophylla. It was also mechanically transmitted from both these Euphorbia species to Datura stramonium. The local cultivar Tacarigua of Phaseolus vulgaris was resistant to the virus on mechanical inoculation or transmission by B. tabaci. Kim and Fulton (1984) suggested that the Euphorbia virus that infected Datura stramonium in Arkansas, USA, belongs to the group of whitefly-transmitted geminiviruses.
ImpactTop of page
E. heterophylla interference with groundnuts was studied by Bridges et al. (1992) in the USA. Based on four field experiments with differing densities of E. heterophylla, groundnut yield losses in Georgia were predicted to be 0, 4, 8, 12, 15, 26, 40 and 54% for season-long E. heterophylla interference at densities of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 16 and 32 plants/9 m of row, respectively. In Florida, predicted groundnut yield losses were 0, 9, 14, 22, 30, 37 and 41% for weed densities of 0, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32 plants/9 m row, respectively. Groundnuts had to be maintained weed free for 10 weeks after groundnut emergence to prevent yield loss. E. heterophylla that interfered with groundnuts for more than 2 weeks after emergence of the crop reduced yields.
In glasshouse studies, Eke and Okereke (1990) demonstrated that E. heterophylla reduced growth rate of maize at a ratio of four weed plants per one crop plant, but its competitive effects were less than those of Eleusine indica at a similar density.
A model of competition for light between groundnut, three broad-leaf weeds and E. heterophylla has been built by Barbour and Bridges (1995). The model simulates shading of the groundnut canopy by reducing the total daily photosynthetically active radiation received by the groundnuts in a manner that realistically represents timing and quantity of light capture by the weeds. E. heterophylla overtopped the groundnut canopy 44 days after sowing and had an attenuation value of 39% 85 days after sowing. The model predictions accounted for at least 90% of the yield losses observed.
Willard et al. (1994) determined the area of influence and the duration of interference (2-18 weeks) of E. heterophylla on soyabean growth and yields. Soyabean canopy width was reduced by approximately 10% when the weed was allowed to compete for up to 6 weeks from planting for both the 0-10 and 10-20 cm distances from the weed. Soyabean dry weights decreased from 14 to 38% when the crop was 20 cm from the weed for 12 through to 18 weeks. Soyabean yields of plants growing within 10 cm of the weed were less than those at greater distances, corresponding to an 18% yield reduction when compared with those at 80-100 cm. Differences in weed weights when growing alone and when growing in the soyabean row occurred after 6 and 8 weeks of interference.
Nester et al. (1979) comment how yields of soyabean can be reduced to zero by dense infestations of E. heterophylla, and even moderate infestations can cause difficulties at harvest and reduce quality by contamination with sticky latex and adhering dirt and trash.
Uses ListTop of page
- Host of pest
- Poisonous to mammals
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
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.
E. heterophylla is not easily controlled by chemical methods, but reasonable to adequate control may be achieved with the following herbicides:
Ametryn, ammonium glufosinate, bromacil, chlorimuron-methyl, 2,4-D, fomesafen, imazaquin, metribuzin, oxyfluorfen, paraquat and terbacil. Also mixtures of ametryn with atrazine, diuron, 2,4-D or MSMA; asulam plus diuron; bentazon plus MCPA or paraquat; diuron plus 2,4-D, hexazinone, MSMA or paraquat; 2,4-D plus glyphosate, ioxynil, MCPA, picloram or propanil.
A useful review of the limitations and potential of the older herbicides was prepared by Wilson (1981). This notes the general unreliability of atrazine and linuron in maize and other crops, but 'general satisfactory' control by 2,4-D. In broad-leaved crops, trifluralin and related compounds are also ineffective, but compounds giving some useful control included fluridone, oxadiazon, cyanazine, 2,4-DB, bentazon and acifluorfen. Oxadiazon gives less reliable control than metribuzin, but may be useful on soils where metribuzin cannot be used (Nester et al., 1979).
Willard and Griffin (1993) studied the response of E. heterophylla to imazaquin, fomesafen and acifluorfen, and chlorimuron. Based on reductions in weed height and lateral branch number 28 days after treatment, E. heterophylla was controlled more effectively by herbicide applications at 5-7 cm height than at 15-20 cm in both greenhouse and field studies; however in the field study, weed biomass reduction gave variable results. With application of all herbicides at 15-20 cm, seed production of the weed was equal to the untreated control.
According to Harger and Nester (1980), the most effective soil-applied herbicide, metribuzin, gave 70-90% control, but later germination of E. heterophylla necessitated the use of post-emergence herbicides. E. heterophylla germination was reduced by sowing the soyabeans in early May, as shading from the soyabean canopy lowered soil temperature. Bentazone with a surfactant was the most effective overtop herbicide treatment when applied before E. heterophylla seedlings were 10 cm tall.
Biological control has been successfully used in Brazil using Helminthosporium sp. spores in an inundative technique (Yorinori, 1985).
ReferencesTop of page
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