Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Heliotropium indicum
(Indian heliotrope)



Heliotropium indicum (Indian heliotrope)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Heliotropium indicum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Indian heliotrope
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae

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Upper part of plant with leaves and flowers.
TitleUpper part of plant
CaptionUpper part of plant with leaves and flowers.
CopyrightKurt G. Kissmann
Upper part of plant with leaves and flowers.
Upper part of plantUpper part of plant with leaves and flowers.Kurt G. Kissmann
Six-leaf seedling.
CaptionSix-leaf seedling.
CopyrightKurt G. Kissmann
Six-leaf seedling.
SeedlingSix-leaf seedling.Kurt G. Kissmann
Seeds from two aspects. Note scale.
CaptionSeeds from two aspects. Note scale.
CopyrightKurt G. Kissmann
Seeds from two aspects. Note scale.
SeedsSeeds from two aspects. Note scale.Kurt G. Kissmann


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Heliotropium indicum L. (1753)

Preferred Common Name

  • Indian heliotrope

Other Scientific Names

  • Eliopia riparia Raf. (1838)
  • Eliopia serrata Raf.
  • Heliophytum indicum (L.) DC. (1845)
  • Heliotropium cordifolium Moench (1794)
  • Heliotropium foetidum Salisb. (1796)
  • Heliotropium horminifolium Mill. (1768)
  • Tiaridium indicum (L.) Lehm. (1818)

International Common Names

  • English: devil weed; scorpion weed
  • Spanish: cola de alacran; cotorrera; moco de pavo
  • French: herbe papillon
  • Portuguese: borragem-brava; rabo-de-mico

Local Common Names

  • : cola de alacrán
  • Bangladesh: hatisur
  • Barbados: white clary
  • Brazil: agraraa; borragem; crista de galo; erva-desao-fiacre; heliotropio; jacuacanga; turiri
  • Cambodia: pamroy damrey
  • Caribbean: erisipelas plant; wild clary
  • Colombia: heliotropo silvestre
  • Costa Rica: largatillo
  • Cuba: alacrancillo
  • El Salvador: borraja de la tierra; hierba de alacrán; pico de zope
  • Germany: Indische Sonnenwende
  • India: hatisundha
  • Indonesia: bandotan lombok; djingir ajam; gadjahan; tlale; tusok konde
  • Jamaica: turnsoles
  • Japan: nanbanruriso
  • Myanmar: sin-letmaung-gyi
  • Netherlands: wilde heliotroop
  • Pakistan: ounth chara
  • Panama: flor de alacrán
  • Philippines: buntot-leon; pengnga-pengnga; punta elepante
  • Taiwan: gou-wei-chung-tsan
  • Thailand: yah nguang-chang
  • Trinidad and Tobago: clary
  • Venezuela: rabo de alacrán de playa
  • Vietnam: vòi voi

EPPO code

  • HEOIN (Heliotropium indicum)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Boraginales
  •                         Family: Boraginaceae
  •                             Genus: Heliotropium
  •                                 Species: Heliotropium indicum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The generic name is derived from the Greek helios, for sun and trope, for turning, suggesting that the leaves and flowers turn towards the sun, however, this is not the habit of this species. The species name, indicum relates to India where it is supposed to be a native plant species, however, Waterhouse (1993) considers H. indicum to be of tropical American origin. Its closest relative is H. elongatum, a species of south-eastern South America (See Notes on Geographic Distribution) (Johnston, 1928).


Top of page H. indicum is an erect, robust, coarse, succulent annual herb with branched stem and strong taproot. Usually the plant attains a height of 1 m, but sometimes it may grow as tall as 1.5 m. Stem deeply grooved and covered with large, coarse, white hairs. Leaves opposite or alternate, 3-15 cm long, 2-10 cm wide, ovate to oblong-ovate, with dense, long white hairs on both surfaces. The lower surface of the leaf is pubescent, acute or acuminate, margin with shallow undulating teeth, the base narrowing and extending down along the petiole to form wings on both sides. The lower surface of the leaves prominently veined, the upper surface coarsely rough and grooved. Inflorescence internodal, an unbranched and very rarely dichotomous helicoid cyme, the peduncle portion 2-3 cm long, pubescent, the fertile portion 9-16 cm long. Flowers bisexual with five sepals, lanceolate, 2-3 mm long; Corolla lilac to occasionally white. Fruits angular with an apical beak, 2-3 mm long, glabrous with two lobes which spread apart and separate to give two nutlets at maturity.


Top of page H. indicum is distributed widely throughout the world's tropical regions and it has proved difficult to establish its precise origin. The name suggests an Asiatic origin, and some sources (for example, Holm et al., 1977; Kostermans et al., 1987) indicate it originates from the Old World, but Waterhouse (1993) consider it to be of tropical American origin.

H. indicum occurs as a weed in Africa, the Caribbean region of South America and Central America, tropical regions of North America and southern Asia. Recently it has been introduced to Australia where it is found in Northern Territory and Queensland (Craven, 1996).

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., 1977
Brunei DarussalamPresentWaterhouse, 1993
CambodiaPresentWaterhouse, 1993
ChinaPresentHolm et al., 1977
-GuangdongPresentWang, 1990
-GuangxiPresentWang, 1990
-Hong KongPresentHolm et al., 1991
-YunnanPresentWang, 1990
IndiaPresentHolm et al., 1977
-AssamPresentSaikia and Sarma, 1996
-Madhya PradeshPresentJain et al., 1983
-RajasthanPresentSalgare & Archarekar, 1990
-Uttar PradeshPresentUmesh et al., 1990
-West BengalPresentPons and Sutton, 1996
IndonesiaWidespreadHoml et al., 1977; Kostermans et al., 1987; Waterhouse, 1993
LaosPresentWaterhouse, 1993
MalaysiaPresentWaterhouse, 1993
MyanmarPresentWaterhouse, 1993
PakistanPresentHolm et al., 1977
PhilippinesWidespreadHolm et al., 1977; Waterhouse, 1993
SingaporePresentWaterhouse, 1993
TaiwanPresentWang, 1990; Holm et al., 1991
ThailandPresentWaterhouse, 1993
VietnamPresentWaterhouse, 1993


BeninPresentHeine, 1963; Holm et al., 1991
BotswanaPresentWells et al., 1986; Martins, 1990
CameroonPresentHeine, 1963; Holm et al., 1977
Côte d'IvoirePresentHeine, 1963
GambiaPresentHeine, 1963
GhanaPresentHeine, 1963; Holm et al., 1977
GuineaPresentHeine, 1963; Holm et al., 1991
Guinea-BissauPresentHeine, 1963
KenyaPresentHolm et al., 1991
LiberiaPresentHeine, 1963; Holm et al., 1991
MalawiPresentMartins, 1990
MaliPresentHeine, 1963; Holm et al., 1991
MauritiusPresentHolm et al., 1991
MozambiquePresentMartins, 1990
NamibiaPresentWells et al., 1986
NigeriaPresentHeine, 1963; Holm et al., 1977
SenegalPresentHeine, 1963
Sierra LeonePresentHeine, 1963
South AfricaPresentWells et al., 1986
SudanPresentBebawi and Neugebohrn, 1991
TanzaniaPresentHolm et al., 1977
TogoPresentHeine, 1963
ZambiaPresentMartins, 1990
ZimbabwePresentMartins, 1990

North America

MexicoPresentBirecka et al., 1980
USAPresentFernald, 1950
-AlabamaPresentFernald, 1950; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-ArkansasPresentFernald, 1950
-DelawarePresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-FloridaPresentHolm et al., 1977; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-GeorgiaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-IllinoisPresentFernald, 1950; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-IndianaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-KentuckyPresentFernald, 1950
-LouisianaPresentFernald, 1950; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MarylandPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MississippiPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-MissouriPresentFernald, 1950; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-North CarolinaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-OhioPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-OklahomaPresentFernald, 1950
-South CarolinaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-TennesseePresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-TexasPresentFernald, 1950; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-VirginiaPresentFernald, 1950; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987
-West VirginiaPresentFernald, 1950; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentHolm et al., 1977
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Labrada, 1975; Holm et al., 1991; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
El SalvadorPresentHolm et al., 1991
HondurasPresentHolm et al., 1991
JamaicaPresentHolm et al., 1991
PanamaPresentHolm et al., 1977; Miller, 1988
Puerto RicoPresentHolm et al., 1991
Trinidad and TobagoPresentHolm et al., 1977

South America

ArgentinaRestricted distributionJohnston, 1928; Burkart, 1979
BoliviaPresentJohnston, 1928
BrazilWidespreadKissman & Groth, 1992; Johnston, 1928; Holm et al., 1977
ColombiaPresentJohnston, 1928; Holm et al., 1977
EcuadorPresentJohnston, 1928
French GuianaPresentJohnston, 1928
GuyanaPresentJohnston, 1928
ParaguayPresentJohnston, 1928
PeruPresentJohnston, 1928
SurinamePresentJohnston, 1928
VenezuelaPresentJohnston, 1928; Holm et al., 1977; Pacheco and Pèrez, 1989


UKPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987


AustraliaRestricted distributionStanley and Ross, 1983; Lazarides and Hince, 1993; Craven, 1996
-Australian Northern TerritoryWidespreadLazarides and Hince, 1993; Craven, 1996
-QueenslandWidespreadKleinschmidt and Johnson, 1977; Lazarides and Hince, 1993; Craven, 1996


Top of page H. indicum is a weed of disturbed habitats from sea level to an altitude of 1000 m almost throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It does not occur in colder regions. The plant is usually associated with wet, fertile soils, often near rivers and lakes, fallow rice fields, roadsides and waste areas.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Biology and Ecology

Top of page H. indicum is a coarse annual weed and one of the most commonly encountered species of the genus. The plant reproduces by seeds which are produced on the long, curled, one-sided spikes. The seeds are produced for a long period and the flowers continue to produce new seeds while mature seeds are still falling (Tadulingham and Venkatanarayana, 1932). Its ability to grow in periodically wet or partiailly flooded situations enables it to establish in crops under conditions where weeds sensitive to excess water could not endure.

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Cercospora heliotropiicola Pathogen Leaves
Oidium heliotropiicola Pathogen Leaves
Podosphaera xanthii Pathogen
Utethesia pulchella Herbivore Fruits/pods/Growing point/Inflorescence/Leaves/Stems

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Few natural enemies of H. indicum are known. The species is distributed widely throughout the world's tropical regions, and it has proved difficult to establish its precise origin, although South and Central America seem most likely. Arthropods and pathogens should be studied in these areas to establish if any have biological control potential. A few natural enemies, especially pathogens, have been recorded, mostly in India, apparently with little importance.


Top of page H. indicum is common in tropical countries, being a major weed of sugarcane in Indonesia and the Philippines (Holm et al., 1991) and of maize in Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines (Waterhouse, 1993). It is also reported as a weed of rice in Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam (Moody, 1989). In Venezuela, it is a common weed of sugarcane in Aragua and Portuguese states (Rincones, 1975, 1989), of sesame (Sesamum indicum) (Prieto and Leon, 1975) and of several other crops (Anzola, 1989). It is a common weed of crops in several other countries including Taiwan, Tanzania and Trinidad.

In addition to being a weed in different crops in various tropical and subtropical regions of the world, H. indicum, like several other members of Boraginaceae, possesses pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have a hepatotoxic effect in cattle (Birecka et al., 1980; Morris and Zambrano, 1991).


Top of page H. indicum is considered as an ornamental plant and often planted in gardens (Kissmann and Groth, 1992). Batra et al. (1969) suggested the use of H. indicum as trap plants to control flea-beetles (Psyliodes brettinghami, Phyllotreta cruciferae, Luperodes spp. and Chaetocnema basalis) that damage crop plants in India, especially vegetables and cereals.

Uses List

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  • Ornamental


  • Pesticide
  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page H. indicum is a coarse, annual weed and one of the most commonly encountered species of the genus Heliotropium in the tropical and sub-tropical zones. H. indicum differs from most other weedy species in its lilac flowers, but these are sometimes white and a more reliable character is the pair of strongly divergent carpels with bidentate tips. The closely related H. elongatum has carpels parallel or only weakly divergent, longer (commonly 4-5 mm long), and without the strongly bidentate apices.

A number of other species can occur as weeds, of which the most important is H. europaeum (see separate data-sheet). This normally has white flowers with yellow throats, but can also be distinguished by its 4-lobed fruit. H ovalifolium in West Africa has much smaller, densely hairy leaves.

Prevention and Control

Top of page There is little information available on the chemical control of H. indicum. However, a few experimental results are mentioned in the literature.

Methabenzthiazuron, dichlormate and nitrofen were found to effectively control H. indicum when applied pre-emergence to wheat (Tosh, unda).

Kostermans et al. (1987) indicate moderate susceptibility to 2,4-D and MCPA when young. Lorenzi and Jeffery (1987) suggest 2,4-D + dicamba for use in non-crop areas.


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Anzola MLH, 1989. Indice Agropecuaria X1V edn. Caracas, Venezuela: Edicarpa SRL.

Batra HN; Joshi HC; Doval SL; Mathur BP, 1969. Food plants, bionomics and control of flea beetles. Indian Farming, 19(3):38-40.

Bebawi FF; Neugebohrn L, 1991. A review of plants of northern Sudan with special reference to their uses. A review of plants of northern Sudan with special reference to their uses., 294pp.; [many col. pl., 1 map]; 10 ref.

Birecka H; Frohlick MW; Hull L; Chaskes MJ, 1980. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids of Heliotropium indicum from Mexico and adjacent USA. Phytochemistry (Oxford), 19(3):421-426.

Burkart A, 1979. Illustrated Flora of Entre Rfos. Vol. VI (5). Buenos Aires, Argentina: Scientific Collection, National Institute of Agriculture Technology.

Craven LA, 1996. A taxonomic revision of Heliotropium (Boraginaceae) in Australia. Australian Systematic Botany, 9(4):521-657; 30 ref.

Fernald ML, 1950. A Handbook of the Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Central and Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada: Gray's Manual of Botany. 8th edn. New York, USA: American Book Company.

Heine, 1963. 150. Boraginaceae. In: Hutchinson J, Dalziel JM, Hepper FN, eds. Flora of West Tropical Africa, Volume 2, Second edition. II. London, UK: Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, 317-325.

Holm LG; Pancho JV; Herberger JP; Plucknett DL, 1991. A Geographic Atlas of World Weeds. Malabar, Florida, USA: Krieger Publishing Company.

Holm LG; Plucknett DL; Pancho JV; Herberger JP, 1977. The World's Worst Weeds. Distribution and Biology. Honolulu, Hawaii, USA: University Press of Hawaii.

Jain S; Joshi IJ; Saksena SB, 1983. Some new leaf spot diseases from Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh). National Academy of Sciences, Science Letters, 6(5):151-152

Johnston IM, 1928. Studies in the Boraginaceae, VII. The South American species of Heliotropium. Contributions from the Gray Herbarium of Harvard University, 81:3-73.

Kissmann KG; Groth D, 1992. Plantas Infestantes e Nocivas, Volume 2. Sao Paulo, Brazil: BASF.

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

Kostermans AJGH; Wirjahardja S; Dekker RJ, 1987. The weeds: description, ecology and control. Weeds of rice in Indonesia [edited by Soerjani, M.; Kostermans, A.J.G.H.; Tjitrosoepomo, G.] Jakarta, Indonesia; Balai Pustaka, 24-565

Labrada R, 1975. Some aspects of the incidence of weeds in Cuba. PANS, 21(3):308-312.

Lazarides M; Hince B, eds. , 1993. CSIRO Handbook of Economic Plants in Australia. Melbourne, Australia: CSIRO Publications, 308 pp.

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.

Lorenzi HJ; Jeffery LS(Editors), 1987. Weeds of the United States and their control. New York, USA; Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. Ltd., 355 pp.

Martins ES, 1990. 116. Boraginaceae. In: Launert E, Pope GV, eds. Flora Zambesiaca, Vol. 7, Part 4. London, UK: Flora Zambesiaca Management Committee.

Miller JS, 1988. A revised treatment of Boraginaceae for Panama. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 75(2):456-521

Moody L, 1989. Weeds Reported in rice in South and Southeast Asia. Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines: International Rice Research Institute.

Morris J; Zambrano O, 1991. Hepatotoxicidad de la maleza Heliotropium indicum L. (rabo de alacran). Biollania. Edicion Especial No. 3. Resumenes del X Congresso Venezolano de Botnica.

Oviedo Prieto R; Herrera Oliver P; Caluff MG, et al. , 2012. National list of invasive and potentially invasive plants in the Republic of Cuba - 2011. (Lista nacional de especies de plantas invasoras y potencialmente invasoras en la República de Cuba - 2011). Bissea: Boletín sobre Conservación de Plantas del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba, 6(Special Issue 1):22-96.

Pacheco JJ; PFrez LA, 1989. Malezas de Venezula. San Cristobal, Venezula: Tipografia y Litografia Central.

Pons N; Sutton BC, 1996. Cercospora and similar fungi on Heliotropium weeds. Mycological Research, 100(7):815-820; 29 ref.

Prieto ML; Leon S, 1975. Las maleza del ajonjoli en el estado Portuguesa. Caracas, Venezuela: Ministerio de Agricultura y Cria - Fondo National de Investigaciones Agropecuarias.

Rincones C, 1975. Control uimico preemergente de malezas en plantilla cana de azucar en Portiguesa. CIARCO, 5(1-4):3-10.

Rincones C, 1989. Distribucion de las malezas en canammelares de los Valles de Aragua. Cana de Azucar, 7:55-67.

Saikia LR; Sarma SK, 1996. Phytosociological investigation of the rice field weeds of Duliajan (Assam). Indian Journal of Forestry, 19(1):40-44; 8 ref.

Salgare SA; Acharekar C, 1990. Effect of industrial pollution (from Chembur) on the chlorophyll content of wild plants - I. Journal of Phytological Research, 3(1 & 2):59-63

Stanley TD; Ross EM, 1983. Flora of South-eastern Queensland. Volume 1. Brisbane, Australia: Queensland Department of Primary Industries, 113.

Tadulingam C; Venkatanarayana G, 1932. A Handbook of some Indian Weeds. Madras, India: Government Press.

Tosh GC, unda. Herbicide evaluation for intercropped wheat with mustard and linseed. Abstracts of papers, annual conference of Indian Society of Weed Science, 1982, 6.

Umesh Chandra Saxena SK; Singh MP, 1990. A new record of powdery mildew of heliotrope (Heliotropium indicum). Indian Journal of Mycology and Plant Pathology, 20(1):75-76

Wang ZR, 1990. Farmland Weeds in China. Beijing, China: Agricultural Publishing House.

Waterhouse DF, 1993. The Major Arthropod Pests and Weeds of Agriculture in Southeast Asia. ACIAR Monograph No. 21. Canberra, Australia: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, 141 pp.

Wells MJ; Balsinhas AA; Joffe H; Engelbrecht VM; Harding G; Stirton CH, 1986. A catalogue of problem plants in South Africa. Memoirs of the botanical survey of South Africa No 53. Pretoria, South Africa: Botanical Research Institute.

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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