Impatiens parviflora (small balsam)
- 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
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- 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
- Impatiens parviflora DC.
Preferred Common Name
- small balsam
Other Scientific Names
- Impatiens nevskii Pobed.
International Common Names
- English: small-flower touch-me-not
- French: balsamine à petites fleurs
Local Common Names
- Denmark: småblomstret balsamin
- Finland: rikkapalsami
- Germany: Kleines Springkraut
- Netherlands: springzaad, klein
- Norway: mongolspringfrø
- Poland: niecierpek drobnokwiatowy
- IPAPA (Impatiens parviflora)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
I. parviflora is an exceptionally successful invader of many European countries. Its spread has been rapid, it is abundant in many parts of its exotic range and is one of few plants to successfully invade undisturbed forest vegetation. It is consequently regarded as undesirable by some, though there is little evidence of negative economic, social or environmental impacts. Further spread in central Europe is not likely as the species is already very abundant. In North America, on the other hand, it is still very localized. Even without clear evidence for impacts, a further spread there should not be encouraged by deliberate or careless transport of the species.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Balsaminales
- Family: Balsaminaceae
- Genus: Impatiens
- Species: Impatiens parviflora
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
I. parviflora belongs to the family Balsaminaceae, order Ericales. Before the recent advances in molecular phylogenetics Impatiens (Balsaminaceae) was treated as a distinctly separate order, the Balsaminales (Dahlgren, 1989) and more traditionally as a member of the order Geraniales under Rosidae (Cronquist, 1988; Thorne, 2000). Anderberg et al. (2002) and Geuten et al. (2004) disputed such classifications which were based mainly on morphological characteristics. As a result of their molecular phylogenetic studies, the Balsaminaceae was reclassified as a family in the Ericales (an order of 26 families) sitting as a sister group to all other Ericales in the Balsaminoid Ericales. The Balsaminoid Ericales consist of the families Balsaminaceae, Marcgraviaceae, Pellicieraceae and Tetrameristaceae. Together this group comprises approximately 1130 species.
DescriptionTop of page
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
The native range is the mountains of central Asia. According to Trepl (1984), many statements in the older floristic literature about the native range are imprecise or wrong and there is also some doubt about its occurrence in some areas. Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia have parts of the range, consisting of scattered areas with the species interspersed with areas without it (Trepl, 1984). USDA-ARS (2008) note a wider native range in central Asia, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan, also Xinjiang, China, and parts of Russia, west to Belarus. In areas with steppe or semi-desert vegetation, the species can only occur in more humid forest patches, e.g. in floodplains or on northern slopes. The invasive range covers most of central Europe, France and the UK, with scattered occurrences in Scandinavia, the Baltic states (Hulten and Fries, 1986) and in North America. It is recorded in Canada but not in the USA (USDA-NRCS, 2008), although some European flora note it as present in the USA.
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: 10 Feb 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Russia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|United Kingdom||Present, Widespread||Introduced|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present, Localized||Introduced|
|United States||Present, Localized||Introduced|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
The introduction and invasive spread of I. parviflora in central Europe have been analyzed in detail by Trepl (1984), with the motivation for the introduction identified as being botanical curiosity. The first record of the species in the wild in 1831 is from the botanical garden in Genf, Switzerland, but the actual date of first introduction to Europe is not known, likely to have been cultivated in 1830 or shortly before. The first record in Germany was in 1838 in Dresden, and in 1871 in Prague, Czech Republic. In the UK, it was first recorded in the wild in 1848 (Williamson, 1996). Most of the early records in the 1800s were related to botanical gardens or their close vicinity. The habitats invaded in the early phase of its spread were predominantly gardens, parks and other sites in settlements. From the late 1800s, it invaded forests and their edges, and whereas I. parviflora was mostly found in forests with strong human influence at the beginning, it proved capable of invading more or less undisturbed vegetation later in the 1900s (Trepl, 1984). At this time the invasive spread became much faster. As the autochorous dispersal mechanism only reaches distances of up to 3.4 m, the spread must have been aided by human transport of seeds. The maximum rate of spread in the UK was calculated as 24 km per year in 1915 (Williamson, 1996).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
In most of central Europe, the species is virtually everywhere, so further spread is likely to be restricted to areas with less abundance, such as in France or western Russia. The seeds are easily transported with the bark of timber. However, further spread may possibly occur in North America, where the species is currently localized and rare.
HabitatTop of page
I. parviflora occurs mainly in forests and forest edges. It mainly invades forests that are under strong human influence, such as managed forests and timber plantations, as well as near-natural forest types. It is more often found in moist to wet forests from floodplains to beech forests. In addition, the species occurs in ruderal vegetation in settlements.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
There is little genetic variation in the invasive populations. Chromosome numbers recorded are 2n=20, 2n=24 and 2n=26. No hybrids are known in Europe (Coombe, 1956).
Physiology and Phenology
I. parviflora plants in Europe usually germinate in March or April. The time from germination to flowering is 8-9 weeks with seeds ripening 3-4 weeks later (Coombe, 1956). Flowering usually begins in May or June and lasts until September or October, with the oldest recorded plants being 7 months old.
Propagation is exclusively by seed. The flowers are protandrous with a male phase of 2-4 hours and a female phase of 1-2 days. Flowers are visited mainly by Syrphidae, of which 19 species were found on I. parviflora (Schmitz, 1998b). Even in periods of low insect visitation, all flowers usually set seed. The plant is self-compatible, geitonogamous and allogamous pollination results in no differences in seed-set. Cleistogamy has been reported but the majority of the flowers are chasmogamous. The number of seeds produced per plant varies considerably depending on soil conditions and crowding up to a maximum estimate of 10,000 seeds per plant (Coombe, 1956), although 1000-2000 is more common (Trepl, 1984). Seeds require low temperatures to break dormancy, but not frost as was earlier thought. The shortest stratification period resulting in germination is 13 days, with the germination rate increasing with the duration of the stratification. Seeds stored dry at room temperature remain viable for less than 3 years, stored wet they still germinated after 4 years (Coombe, 1956).
I. parviflora is a temperate species preferring shade and half-shade, mostly found at 5-40% relative daylight. It occurs on a wide range of mineral soils, moderately to highly rich in minerals but not necessarily calcareous, with soil pH ranging from 4.5 to 7.6. Most soils are brown soils or rendzinas (Coombe, 1956). The seedlings cannot survive waterlogged conditions.
In central Europe, I. parviflora occurs in seven phytosociological classes and 20 alliances. These are mostly deciduous forests consisting of Quercus spp., Fraxinusexcelsior, Alnus incana, Acer pseudoplatanus, Tilia spp., Salix spp., etc. It also occurs in coniferous plantations under Pinus sylvestris, Picea abies, etc. In forests, it can grow in situations not suitable for other herbaceous plants due to low light levels, heavy competition by tree roots, or thick litter layers. In nitrophilous forest edges and eutrophicated forests, it is associated with Geranium robertianum, Geum urbanum, Chaerophyllum temulum, Alliaria petiolata, etc. (Trepl, 1984; Schmitz, 1998b; Kowarik, 2003). In the UK, I. parviflora is most frequently associated with Acer pseudoplatanus, Fraxinus excelsior, Sambucus nigra, and the herbaceous plants Urtica dioica, Glechoma hederacea and Mercurialis perennis (Coombe, 1956). No mycorrhiza was found on I. parviflora. It is hardly browsed by mammals, deer in central Europe avoid the species (Schmitz, 1998b) and rabbits do not attack it (Coombe, 1956).
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|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Tolerated||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||-20||0|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||5||15|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||10||25|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||-5||5|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Dry season duration||0||5||number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall|
|Mean annual rainfall||400||2000||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Slugs, snails and a total of 14 taxa of insects were found to feed on I. parviflora in Europe, including 9 polyphagous species, 4 oligophagous species formerly restricted to the native I. noli-tangere, and the oligophagous Impatientinum asiaticum imported from the native range of I. parviflora and limited to Impatiens species (Schmitz, 1998b). Slugs and the latter aphid were believed to have the greatest antagonistic effect on I. parviflora. Several phytopathogenic fungi are found on I. parviflora in central Europe, among them two species of Sphaeropsidales (Ascochyta impatientis, Phyllosticta impatientis), two Uredinales (Puccinia argentata, P. komarovii) and one Erysiphales (Shaerotheca balsaminae). P. komarovii is specific to I. parviflora, the other species is also found on I. noil-tangere (Schmitz, 1998b). P. komarovii is from the native range of I. parviflora and its westward spread has been observed since 1921 when it was first found in Ukraine, in Germany in 1935, Switzerland in 1938, Slovakia in 1942 and ever westward. Even though it is mostly of little apparent impact, it has repeatedly been observed to kill whole populations of I. parviflora (Eliás, 1995; Bacigálová et al., 1998).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
The seed are expelled by an explosive mechanism. The maximum distance recorded was 3.4 m (Trepl, 1984). Transport of floating seeds with water is possible but probably of limited importance, although the transport in river sediments with fast-moving water in winter floods may contribute to long-distance dispersal.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
No reports exist on endozoochorous dispersal, but epizoochorous dispersal in the fur of mammals and in dirt on their feet is an important mode of long-distance dispersal (Trepl, 1984). Singular observations of I. parviflora growing on trees show that birds transport seeds.
Seeds of I. parviflora can be transported accidentally in various ways. The dirt on vehicles used in forests may contain seeds, with 22 seeds per litre of soil trapped in the tyres and other parts of a vehicle found in one study (Trepl, 1984). Transport with timber is a likely cause for rapid spread in some areas and the frequent occurrence on railway sidings and beside tracks is attributed to seeds transported with timber on trains (Trepl, 1984).
Seeds may be transported with different parts of plants. Early reports from the UK (Coombe, 1956) indicate the possible dispersal of seeds with buckwheat for pheasants, with soil or in roots of garden plants, with flower seeds, etc. (Trepl, 1984).
Not only was the first introduction to Europe and to several countries intentional, but so too was the further spread in its early phase. Plants were brought to gardens out of botanical curiosity and also sown into near-natural vegetation with the aim to 'enrich' the flora (Trepl, 1984); however, this way of propagation is probably no longer of relevance.
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Escape from confinement or garden escape||Yes||Trepl (1984)|
|Flooding and other natural disasters||Yes||Trepl (1984)|
|Forestry||On harvested logs||Yes||Trepl (1984)|
|Hitchhiker||On the fur of wild animals||Yes||Trepl (1984)|
|Ornamental purposes||Yes||Yes||Trepl (1984)|
|Self-propelled||Up to 3.4 m||Yes||Trepl (1984)|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
|Bulk freight or cargo||On dirt on logs transported by trains||Yes||Trepl (1984)|
|Land vehicles||Seed in attached dirt; forestry vehicles||Yes||Trepl (1984)|
|Machinery and equipment||Seed in attached dirt on forestry equipment||Yes||Trepl (1984)|
|Soil, sand and gravel||Yes||Coombe (1956)|
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Growing medium accompanying plants||weeds/seeds|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches||weeds/seeds|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Fruits (inc. pods)|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
Economic ImpactTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
The invasion of I. parviflora into forests can result in the addition of a herbaceous layer in the vegetation where this layer was formerly absent. This may affect tree regeneration and consequently alter the course of ecological succession. The environmental impact, however, has not been studied in detail.
Impact on Biodiversity
The biodiversity impact of I. parviflora varies with site conditions and vegetation affected. The species has obviously been able to fill empty niches in some forest communities, where prior to the invasion of I. parviflora, the forest floor was void of higher plants due to low light availability. In other cases, I. parviflora competes with other plants and can lead to a shift in dominance. As no competitive exclusion even from smaller areas was reported, the overall biodiversity impact of I. parviflora seems to be limited (Trepl, 1984). As a host for the Asian aphid Impatientinum asiaticum, I. parviflora supports a rich fauna of aphidophagous insects (Schmitz, 1998b). It is sometimes noted in the floristic literature that I. parviflora crowds out the native I. noli-tangere or other plant species, but only under conditions that are suboptimal for the native species, such as being too dry. Complete competitive displacement of native species by I. parviflora, however, has not been demonstrated (Schmitz, 1998b; Kowarik, 2003).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Tolerant of shade
- Highly mobile locally
- Fast growing
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Modification of nutrient regime
- Monoculture formation
- Negatively impacts forestry
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Rapid growth
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
UsesTop of page
Uses ListTop of page
- Botanical garden/zoo
Human food and beverage
- Emergency (famine) food
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Other Impatiens species are somewhat similar but differ in conspicuous features from I. parviflora with its pale yellow flowers with spots. The European I. noli-tangere has hanging yellow flowers and the American I. capensis has hanging orange flowers. The much larger Asian I. glandulifera, widespread as an exotic in Europe, has pink to purple flowers, and the garden ornamental I. balsamina that occasionally escapes to waste ground in North America and in Europe has pubescent stems and capsules and usually single flowers.
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.
Experiences with the control of I. parviflora have not been published. There is no indication that this annual would withstand cutting or mowing. As most of the seeds germinate in the first spring, cutting and pulling of the plants in their flowering phase before seed-set may be an effective control measure (Coombe, 1956). However, it may be assumed that control methods successful with the related I. glandulifera may prove useful with I. parviflora.
ReferencesTop of page
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Zając M, Zając A, 2001. Success factors enabling the penetration of mountain areas by kenophytes: an example from the Northern Polish Carpathians. In: Plant invasions: species ecology and ecosystem management. [ed. by Brundu G, Brock J, Camarda I, Child L, Wade M]. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers. 271-279.
ContributorsTop of page
26/05/2008 Updated by:
Rob Tanner, CAB Europe - UK, Bakeham Lane, Egham, Surrey TW20 9TY, UK
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