Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Lepidium virginicum
(Virginian peppercress)



Lepidium virginicum (Virginian peppercress)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Lepidium virginicum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Virginian peppercress
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • L. virginicum is an annual herb that has been reported as capable of causing ecological or economic damage in the Pacific Islands, the Western USA and as spreading in Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands (...

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Lepidium virginicum L.

Preferred Common Name

  • Virginian peppercress

Other Scientific Names

  • Clypeola caroliniana Walter
  • Conocardamum virginicum (L.) Webb
  • Crucifera virginica (L.) E.H.L.Krause
  • Dileptium diffusim Raf.
  • Dileptium precox Raf.
  • Dileptium virginicum (L.) Raf.
  • Iberis virginica (L.) Fisch. & C.A.Mey.
  • Lepidium arcuatum DC.
  • Lepidium danielsii C.L.Hitchc.
  • Lepidium diandrum Medik.
  • Lepidium exiguiflorum Clairv.
  • Lepidium gerloffianum Vatke ex Thell.
  • Lepidium graminifolium Roth
  • Lepidium horstii Johow ex Skottsb.
  • Lepidium iberis L.
  • Lepidium majus Darracq.
  • Lepidium micropterum Miq,
  • Lepidium praecox DC.
  • Nasturtiastrum virginicum (L.) Gillet & Magne
  • Nasturtium diandrum Moench
  • Nasturtium majus Kuntze
  • Nasturtium virginicum (L.) Kuntze
  • Senebiera mexicana Hook. & Arn.
  • Thlaspi virginianum Poir.
  • Thlaspi virginicum (L.) Cav.

International Common Names

  • English: least pepperwort; pepper grass; poorman’s pepperwort; Virginia cress; Virginia pepper grass; Virginia pepperweed; wild peppercress
  • Spanish: culantrillo; lentejilla; mancuerno; mastuerzo; mastuerzo silvestre
  • French: cresson a savane; cresson sauvage; lépidie de Virginie; passerage de Virginie
  • Portuguese: mastruco; mastruz; mentruz

Local Common Names

  • Australia: Virginia pepper cress
  • Bahamas: wild pepper-grass
  • Brazil: mastruco; mastruz; menstruz
  • Canada: poor-man’s pepper-grass
  • China: bei mei du xing cai
  • Cook Islands: naunau
  • Cuba: mastuerzo; sabelección; tostón
  • Dominican Republic: mastuerzo
  • French Guiana: cresson-savane
  • Germany: Virginische kresse; Virginische Kresse
  • Haiti: cresson alénois; cresson danois; cresson de savane; cresson savane
  • Ireland: least pepperwort
  • Jamaica: wild peppergrass
  • Japan: mamegunbainazuna
  • Mexico: comida de pajarito; isohuanquil; lentejilla; lentejilla de campo; mexix-quilitl; mixixi; panalillo; put-kan; quelites; rochihuari; xixinda
  • Netherlands: Virginische kruidkers
  • Niue: momili
  • Peru: cresón; mancuerno
  • Puerto Rico: cresón; lentejilla; mastuerzo
  • Sweden: Virginiakrassing
  • UK: least pepperwort
  • USA: bird-pepper; common peppergrass; peppergrass; poor-man’s pepper; tongue-grass; Virginia cress; Virginia pepper-weed
  • Venezuela: escobilla

EPPO code

  • LEPVI (Lepidium virginicum)

Summary of Invasiveness

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L. virginicum is an annual herb that has been reported as capable of causing ecological or economic damage in the Pacific Islands, the Western USA and as spreading in Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands (GISD, 2016). It is a noxious weed causing economic losses in cultivated fields due to reduced crop yields (Romm, 1938; Jones Jr. and Davis, 1963; Coelho et al., 2009), and is a weed of turf in the USA. It is invasive in Cocos Island, China, Philippines, Hawaii (USA), Cuba, Ecuador, French Polynesia, Guam, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau and Tonga (Kim and Ewing, 2006; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; PIER, 2016). It is specifically listed as an invasive species of the sand dunes in South Korea (Kim and Ewing, 2006). In China it is a Group II Species, referring to species that occupy a large area and/or have a strong negative influence over the habitat (Liu et al., 2006). In Cuba it is invasive in citrus orchards, being one of the most problematic weeds (Otero-Pujol et al., 2015). A Weed Risk Assessment adapted for Hawaii gave the species a High Risk score of 17 (PIER, 2016).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Capparidales
  •                         Family: Brassicaceae
  •                             Genus: Lepidium
  •                                 Species: Lepidium virginicum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Brassicaceae, also known as the mustard family, consists of around 3350 species and 340 genera (Johnston et al., 2005). Lepidium has around 175 species with a widespread distribution among all continents (Bowman et al., 1999). The name Lepidium derives from the Greek meaning small scales, referring to the shape of the fruits (Calflora, 2016). The epithet virginicum refers to the locality of the type (Flora of Pakistan, 2016). Most of the common names in English for L. virginicum refer to the peppery flavour of the plant.


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The following description from is from Flora of China Editorial Committee (2016):

Herbs annual or biennial, (6­-)15-­55(-­70) cm tall, pubescent with curved, usually subappressed trichomes. Stems erect, branched above. Basal leaves with petioles 0.5­-3.5 cm; leaf blade obovate, spatulate, or oblanceolate, (1-­)2.5-10(­-15) × 0.5-­3(-­5) cm, margin pinnatifid or lyrate; lobes oblong, serrate or dentate, apex acute. Cauline leaves shortly petiolate; leaf blade oblanceolate or linear, 1-­6 cm × (2­-)5-­10 mm, base attenuate to subcuneate, margin serrate or entire, apex acute. Infructescence lax or rarely dense; puberulent with curved, subappressed trichomes. Fruiting pedicels slender, straight, spreading, 2.5-­4(­-6) mm, usually glabrous abaxially. Sepals oblong, (0.5-­)0.7-1(-­1.1) × 0.5-­0.7 mm, margin and apex white, pilose outside. Petals white, spatulate, 1-­1.5(-­2) × 0.2­-0.6 mm, base attenuate, apex rounded, rarely rudimentary. Stamens 2; filaments 0.6­-0.8 mm; anthers 0.1-­0.2 mm. Fruit orbicular, 2.5-­3.5(-­4) mm in diam., narrowly winged apically, apex emarginate; apical notch 0.2­-0.5 mm; style 0.1­-0.2 mm, included in apical notch. Seeds reddish brown, ovate­oblong, usually narrowly winged at least distally, 1.3­-1.7(-­1.9) × 0.7­-1 mm; cotyledons accumbent.

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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L. virginicum grows in both temperate and tropical areas (Useful Tropical Plants, 2016). It is reported from Asia, Africa, North America, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Europe and Oceania (See Distribution Table for details).

Although Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012) list it as native for the whole of the New World, including the West Indies, most sources have it as native only for North America (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2016; Useful Tropical Plants, 2016). Al-Shehbaz (2010) lists the species as native to North America and introduced to South America. A collection by Sessé and Mocino supports the species as being native to Mexico (Rollins, 1960). Britton (1906) reports it as an introduced species in the West Indies.

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


BhutanPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
ChinaPresentIntroducedLiu et al., 2006; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-AnhuiPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-FujianPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-GuangxiPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-GuizhouPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-HebeiPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-HenanPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-HubeiPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-HunanPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-JiangsuPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-JiangxiPresentIntroducedEncyclopedia of Life, 2016
-LiaoningPresentIntroducedEncyclopedia of Life, 2016
-ShandongPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-SichuanPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-YunnanPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-ZhejiangPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
Cocos IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016
IndiaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-BiharPresentIntroducedE-Flora of India, 2016
-Himachal PradeshPresentIntroducedE-Flora of India, 2016
-Jammu and KashmirPresentIntroducedE-Flora of India, 2016
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedE-Flora of India, 2016
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedE-Flora of India, 2016
-West BengalPresentIntroducedE-Flora of India, 2016
JapanPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
Korea, Republic ofPresentIntroducedKim, 2005; Kim and Ewing, 2006Roadsides
LebanonPresentIntroducedMarhold, 2011Listed as “probably cultivated”
PakistanPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedPIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
Saudi ArabiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
SyriaPresentIntroducedMarhold, 2011Listed as “probably cultivated”
TaiwanPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
TurkeyPresentIntroducedMarhold, 2011


EgyptPresentIntroduced Not invasive El-Gazzar and Hammouda, 2006
EritreaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
MadagascarPresentMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Antananarivo, Fianarantsoa, Tomasina
MoroccoPresentIntroducedMarhold, 2011
South AfricaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016

North America

CanadaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-British ColumbiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-New BrunswickPresentNative Not invasive Mulligan, 1961
-Newfoundland and LabradorPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-Nova ScotiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-OntarioPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-Prince Edward IslandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-QuebecPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
MexicoWidespreadNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016Baja California, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Distrito Federal, Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México, Michoacán, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, Veracruz, Yucatán
USAWidespreadNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-AlabamaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-AlaskaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2016
-ArizonaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-ArkansasPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-CaliforniaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-ColoradoPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-ConnecticutPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-DelawarePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-District of ColumbiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-FloridaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-GeorgiaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu Islands; Kure Atoll
-IdahoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-IllinoisPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-IndianaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-IowaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-KansasPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-KentuckyPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-LouisianaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-MainePresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-MarylandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-MassachusettsPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-MichiganPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-MinnesotaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-MississippiPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-MissouriPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-MontanaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-NebraskaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-NevadaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-New HampshirePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-New JerseyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-New MexicoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-New YorkPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-North CarolinaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-North DakotaPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2016
-OhioPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-OklahomaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-OregonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-PennsylvaniaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-Rhode IslandPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-South CarolinaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-South DakotaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-TennesseePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-TexasPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-UtahPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-VermontPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-VirginiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-WashingtonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-West VirginiaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-WisconsinPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-WyomingPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016

Central America and Caribbean

AnguillaPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Antigua and BarbudaPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
BahamasPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
BarbadosPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
BelizePresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
British Virgin IslandsPresentNativeAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012Tortola
Cayman IslandsPresentNativeAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Costa RicaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Heredia, Puntarenas, San José
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Britton, 1906; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
DominicaPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
Dominican RepublicPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Baoruco, La Vega, Peravia
El SalvadorPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Ahuachapán, La Libertad, San Salvador
GrenadaPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
GuadeloupePresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; USDA-ARS, 2016
GuatemalaWidespreadNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Chimaltenango, El Progreso, Escuintla, Guatemala, Huehuetenango, Jalapa, Petén, Quetzaltenango, Sacatepéquez, Santa Rosa, Sololá
HaitiPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
HondurasPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016El Paraíso, Francisco Morazán
JamaicaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016St. Andrew
MartiniquePresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
MontserratPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Netherlands AntillesPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
NicaraguaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Madriz
PanamaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Chiriquí
Puerto RicoPresentNativeAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016Caja de Muertos, Mona, Vieques
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Saint LuciaPresentNativeBroome et al., 2007; Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
United States Virgin IslandsPresentNativeAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012St. Croix, St. John, St, Thomas

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Corrientes, Jujuy, Mendoza
BoliviaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Chuquisaca, Cochamba, Santa Cruz, Tarija.
BrazilPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
-BahiaPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Espirito SantoPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Mato GrossoPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-ParanaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-PernambucoPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Rio Grande do SulPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-Santa CatarinaPresentIntroducedFlora do Brasil, 2016
-Sao PauloPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
ChilePresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
ColombiaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Antioquia
EcuadorPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Galapagos, Loja
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016Isabela Island, Volcán Alcedo, Volcán Darwin, Volcán Sierra Negra, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz Islands
French GuianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
ParaguayPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Amambay, Central, Itapú
PeruPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Cajamarca, Cusco, La Libertad, Lima, Moquegua, Piura
SurinamePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
VenezuelaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Aragua, Carabobo, Distrito Federal, Falcón, Guárico, Mérida, Miranda, Nueva Esparta, Táchira, Vargas, Yaracuy


AlbaniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
AustriaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
BelgiumPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016Brabant
Bosnia-HercegovinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
BulgariaPresentIntroduced2014Stoyanov and Vladimirov, 2015At a railway station in Ruse town
CroatiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
Czech RepublicPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
EstoniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
FinlandPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
FrancePresentIntroducedHocquette, 1925; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016Hautes-Pyrénées
GermanyPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
GreecePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
HungaryPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
IrelandPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Stace et al., 2016
ItalyPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
-SicilyPresentIntroducedMarhold, 2011
LatviaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
LithuaniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
MontenegroPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
NetherlandsPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
NorwayPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
PolandPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
PortugalPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
-AzoresPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
-MadeiraPresentIntroduced1827Missouri Botanical Garden, 2016
RomaniaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
Russian Federation
-Russia (Europe)PresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
-Russian Far EastPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
SerbiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
SlovakiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
SloveniaPresentIntroducedMarhold, 2011
SpainPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
SwitzerlandPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
UKPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, 2016; Stace et al., 2016
UkrainePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
Yugoslavia (former)PresentIntroducedMarhold, 2011


AustraliaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedRogers, 2000
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016Marquesas and Society Islands
GuamPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016
KiribatiPresentNativePIER, 2016
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016Loyalty and New Caledonia Islands and Archipelago.
New ZealandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016
NiuePresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2016
PalauPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016
TongaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
US Minor Outlying IslandsPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2016

History of Introduction and Spread

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L. virginicum history of introduction is not well known. It was cultivated in the United Kingdom by 1713 and by 1881 recorded from the wild in Surrey (Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, 2016). It was reported at Calais, France in 1923 (Hocquette, 1925). In Cuba it was reported in 1904 as a contaminant in the hay used to feed horses at the stables of the Cuban Experiment Station (Wilson, 1904). Seed pods are spread as contaminant of grains, in animal wool and by birds (Proctor, 1968; Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, 2016). More recently the species was reported as present in 2014 in Bulgaria by Stoyanov and Vladimirov (2015).

L. virginicum is mainly used as food and for medicinal use, which are among the reasons facilitating its spread (Osuna et al., 2006; Encyclopedia of Life, 2016). It is sold at various sites over the internet. Seed pods are dispersed by wind, which also contributes to its natural dispersal (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
UK 1713 Yes No Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora (2016) Introduced as a grain contaminant. Now rare
Cuba 1904 Yes No Britton (1906) Hay contaminant
France 1923 Yes No Hocquette (1925)
Bulgaria 2014 Yes No Stoyanov and Vladimirov (2015) At a railway station


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L. virginicum is an herb that occurs along railways, and in arable fields, prairies, pastures, roadsides, lawns, gardens and waste places (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016; Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, 2016). Robertson (1939) reported that L. virginicum was one of the dominant species in prairies that had been subjected to extreme drought periods in Nebraska and Kansas. It is regarded as an invader of overgrazed prairies (Hetzer and McGregor, 1951). The species is reported in chaparral, coastal sage scrub and disturbed areas in California (Calflora, 2016). It is also reported as occurring in sand dunes (Kim, 2005; Messina and Rajaniemi, 2011). It is found in crevices of stone buildings in Havana, Cuba (González Torres et al., 2002).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Natural
Buildings Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Buildings Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Wetlands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural
Coastal dunes Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal dunes Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number reported is 2n=32 (Stace et al., 2016). DNA barcode information for the species is available at the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS, 2016). Germplasm is stored at various institutions (Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2016).

Reproductive Biology

L. virginicum is seed propagated (CONABIO, 2016). Al-Shehbaz (1986) reports that Lepidium is an autogamous genus. Although the species is self-pollinated, various insects visit the plant to collect pollen or nectar (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016). Seeds are photosensitive and will not germinate in absence of light (Toole et al., 1955). Germination takes about two weeks (Useful Tropical Plants, 2016) and needs an alternation of lower night temperature and higher day temperature (Steingbauer and Grigsby, 1957). Higher germination occurs between 15-25°C (Toole et al., 1955). Micropropagation techniques had been developed for the species by Osuna et al. (2006). Gibberellin can cause the seeds to germinate in the darkness and also can remove the temperature requirements that block the germination (Toole and Cathey, 1961). Air pollution with SO2 results in fruit sterility (Murdy, 1979).

Physiology and Phenology

Flowering occurs from spring to autumn, with a peak during the summer (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016). Herbivory produces an induced response in L. virginicum with an increase in leaf trichomes and glucosinolates, which can reduce the feeding of some generalist insects, including aphids and some caterpillars (Agrawal, 2000).

Environmental Requirements

L. virginicum is found from sea level to ca. 3400 m in elevation (Juvik et al., 2011). According to Tela Botanica (2016) the species prefers sunny areas, neutral to basic pH, drier conditions, clay soils and is not tolerant to saline conditions. Nevertheless, studies by Orsini et al. (2010) report the species as highly salt tolerant, while PFAF (2016) suggests that it is suitable for acid, neutral and alkaline soils, and can grow in both semi-shade (light woodland) and no shade. It is also drought tolerant (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016). Other types of soil where the species can grow are loam and gravel; ranging from sterile to fertile (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016).


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
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 Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 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)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
61 46


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall1500mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Albugo candida Pathogen Leaves not specific
Diachus auratus Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Eustixia pupula Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Evergestis pallidata Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Frankliniella tritici Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Haplothrips subtilissimus Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Hyaloperonospora parasitica Pathogen Leaves not specific
Liriomyza brassicae Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Phaedon viridis Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Pieris rapae Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Pontia occidentalis Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Pontia protodice Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Psylliodes convexior Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Psylliodes elegans Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific
Thrips tabaci Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Butterflies and moths reported feeding on the leaves and other parts of L. virginicum include: Pieris occidentalis [Pontia occidentalis], Pieris rapae, Pontia protodice, Eustixia pupula, and Evergestis pallidata (Shapiro, 1975; Encyclopedia of Life, 2016). Reported for Florida (USA) are the following beetles: Diachus auratus, Phaedon viridis, Psylliodes convexior and Psylliodes elegans (Flowers et al., 1994). Other insects reported for the species are Frankliniella tritici, Haplothrips subtilissimus, Thrips tabaci, and Liriomyza brassicae (Blanton, 1939; Stegmaier Jr,1967).

The following water moulds were reported by Kellerman (1904): Albugo candida and Peronospora parasitica [Hyaloperonospora parasitica].

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

Seed pods and racemes are dispersed by wind (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016).

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Proctor (1968) reported that seeds of L. virginicum can remain viable in the intestinal track of various seabirds. Howard (1985) lists the species as animal dispersed without further details. Seeds are mucilaginous and can be dispersed in animal wool (Al-Shehbaz 1986; Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, 2016).

Accidental Introduction

L. virginicum is reported as being introduced to Europe in wool and birdseed (Stace et al., 2016). It is also reported as introduced to Cuba in hay (Britton, 1906). It can be a crop contaminant (Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, 2016).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop productionAs grain contaminant Yes Yes Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, 2016
Digestion and excretionRemaining viable in intestinal tract of sea birds. Yes Yes Proctor, 1968
DisturbanceCommonly found at disturbed and waste places. Yes Encyclopedia of Life, 2016
ForageUsed as bird food and as fodder for other animals. Yes CONABIO, 2016
Garden waste disposalIn garden soil used for compost. Yes Dave’s Garden, 2016
HitchhikerAs contaminant in hay, grains and wool. Yes Yes Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora, 2016
Live food or feed tradeUsed as food and condiment. Yes Yes CONABIO, 2016
Medicinal useVarious medicinal uses are reported. Yes Yes CONABIO, 2016
Off-site preservation Germplasm stored for preservation purposes. Yes Yes Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, 2015
People foragingGathered from the wild by various indigenous cultures for food and medicinal purposes. Yes Useful Tropical Plants, 2016
Seed tradeSeeds are available for sale at various internet sites. Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesIn garden soil used for compost. Yes Dave’s Garden, 2016
GermplasmGermplasm stored for preservation purposes. Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2016
Mulch, straw, baskets and sodAs contaminant in hay, grains, and composting soil. Yes Yes ,
Soil, sand and gravelIn garden soil used for compost. Yes Dave’s Garden, 2016
WindIndividual seedpods or entire racemes can be carried away by wind. Yes Encyclopedia of Life, 2016

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Positive
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Human health Positive

Economic Impact

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L. virginicum is a noxious weed in orchards, crop fields and nurseries; causing economic losses and being costly to remove (Romm, 1938; Jones and Davis, 1963). It is one of the most problematic invasive weeds of citrus orchards in Cuba (Otero-Pujol et al., 2015). The species is susceptible to thrips infestation which can migrate and infect nearby crops, affecting their productivity (González and Suris, 2008).

Environmental Impact

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L. virginicum is reported as causing ecological damage in the Pacific Islands and the Western USA without much detail. It is regarded as a species that can have a negative influence on habitats in China (Liu et al., 2006). It is invasive in the sand dunes in South Korea, replacing the natural vegetation (Kim and Ewing, 2006). It has the capacity of building up seed banks fast, competing with native vegetation (Rogers, 2000).

Social Impact

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L. virginicum is one of the species that is reported as causing some damage to the buildings of Old Havana, Cuba (Saralegui Boza et al., 2008).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control


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Almost all parts of the plants are edible. The leaves are eaten raw or cooked and are a source of vitamin C. The seedpods are eaten raw, used as a condiment or as a pepper substitute (Useful Tropical Plants, 2016). The leaves are reported as being a source of proteins, vitamin A and vitamin C (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016).

The medicinal uses reported for this plant are: to treat vitamin C deficiency, pains, diabetes, blisters, colic in babies, as a decongestant, antiasthmatic, antitussive, cardiotonic and as a diuretic (CONABIO, 2016; Useful Tropical Plants, 2016). North American Indians use it to treat poison ivy rash and scurvy (Useful Tropical Plants, 2016). It is used by the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico as a leaf vegetable, being planted with maize and harvested first (Hanelt and IPK, 2016). Also used in Mexico for the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, for renal and liver diseases, abdominal pains and worm infections (Osuna et al., 2006). Chemical compounds of the species are being analysed for the treatment of various types of cancer (Chae et al., 2011).

Environmental Services

The species is visited by various insects for nectar and/or pollen, including bees, wasps, flies and butterflies (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016). Rabbits and groundhogs eat the plants during the spring when little else is available (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016). It is used as food for birds and as a fodder for other animals (CONABIO, 2016). The species has phytoremediation potential because its ability to trap arsenic (Rofkar et al., 2007).


Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage
  • Invertebrate food

Human food and beverage

  • Seeds
  • Spices and culinary herbs
  • Vegetable

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore


  • Seed trade

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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L. virginicum can be distinguished from other species by its flat seed pods with a small notch at the tip (Encyclopedia of Life, 2016). Field Pepperweed (Lepidium campestre) is similar in appearance and growth habit, however this weed has leaves that clasp the flowering stem and has fruit that are generally larger and more robust than those of Virginia pepperweed (Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide, 2016). L. campestre  also has six stamens, compared with two in L. virginicum. L. perfoliatum has yellow flowers (white in L. virginicum). In Mexico it could be confused with L. schaffneri and L. oblongum (CONABIO, 2016). The first grows at higher altitudes and the apex of the inflorescences has more densely grouped flowers, with smaller and longer fruits. L. oblongum leaves are more divided.

Prevention and Control

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Information about L. virginicum and its effects is available for the public over the internet. Some examples are: information for cattle breeders in Mexico (CONABIO, 2016); an illustrated database of the alien plants in South Korea (Kil et al., 2016). There is also a species profile in the Global Invasive Species Database (GISD, 2016).


L. virginicum is resistant to paraquat (Smisek et al., 1998). The following herbicides and their effectiveness are reported by Richardson and Zandstra (2009): flumioxazin (96%), flumioxazin with pendimethalin (88%), sulfentrazone with pendimethalin (86%), isoxaben with pendimethalin (68%), oxyluorfen with pendimethalin (68%) and simazine with pendimethalin (53%).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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More detailed information on the environmental requirements is needed. Also more information on the effects of the species on natural habitats and biodiversity is required.


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Acevedo-Rodríguez P, Strong MT, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Smithsonian Contributions to Botany, 98:1192 pp. Washington DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution.

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Chae YH, Moon SG, Shin DY, Park C, Choi YH, Lee YT, 2011. Induction of apoptosis in human colon carcinoma HCT116 cells using a water extract of Lepidium virginicum L., Journal of the Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition, 40(5):649-659

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E-Flora of India, 2016. eFlora of India. Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change.

El-Gazzar A, , Hammouda AA, 2006. Nine revived records to the Flora of Egypt., Egyptian Journal of Biology, 8:84-90

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Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2016. Flora of North America North of Mexico. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria.

Flora of Pakistan, 2016. Flora of Pakistan/Pakistan Plant Database (PPD). St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Tropicos website.

Flowers RW, Furth DG, Thomas MC, 1994. Notes on the distribution and biology of some Florida leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae)., The Coleopterists Bulletin, 48(1):79-89

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González C, Suris M, 2008. Thrips species associated to host of interest in Havana provinces. IV. Weeds., Revista de Protección Vegetal, 23(3):149-153

Hanelt P, IPK, 2016. Mansfeld's World Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops. Gatersleben, Germany: Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK).

Hetzer WA, McGregor RL, 1951. An ecological study of the prairie and pasture lands in the Douglas and Franklin Counties, Kansas., Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science, 54(3):356-369

Hocquette M, 1925. Quelques plantes adventices du nord de la France., Bulletin de la Société Royale de la Botanique de Belgique, 57(2):166-176

Howard LF, 1985. Plant colonization on an abandoned, elevated highway in New York City., Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, 47:89-104

Johnston JS, Pepper AE, Hall AE, Chen ZJ, Hodnett G, Drabek J, Lopez R, Price HJ, 2005. Evolution of genome size in Brassicaceae., Annals of Botany, 95(1):229-235

Jones Jr SB, Davis DE, 1963. Weeds of the lower coastal plain in Alabama., Weeds, 11(4):322-323

Juvik JO, Rodomsky BT, Price JP, Hansen EW, Kueffer C, 2011. The upper limits of vegetation on Mauna Loa, Hawaii: a 50th-anniversary reassessment., Ecology, 92(2):518-525

Kellerman WA, 1904. Mycological notes. IV., The Journal of Mycology, 10(3):114-116

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, 2015. Millennium Seed Bank - Seed List. Richmond, UK: Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.

Kil JH, Shim KC, Park SH, Koh KS, Suh MH, Ku YB, Suh SU, Oh HK, Kong HY, 2016. Distributions of naturalized alien plants in South Korea., Weed Technology, 18:1493-1495

Kim KD, 2005. Invasive plants on disturbed Korean sand dunes., Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 62:353-364

Kim KD, Ewing K, 2006. Ecological restoration of coastal sand dunes in South Korea. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, 30(3):1259-1262

Liu J, Dong M, Miao SL, Li SL, Song MH, Wang RQ, 2006. Invasive alien plants in China: role of clonality and geographical origin., Biological Invasions, 8:1461-1470

Marhold K, 2011. Brassicaceae. – In: Euro+Med Plantbase ­ the information resource for Euro­Mediterranean plant diversity.

Messina DS, Rajaniemi TK, 2011. Does the seed bank reflect plant distributions in a coastal dune?, Northeastern Naturalist, 18(1):107-114

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Mulligan GA, 1961. The genus Lepidium in Canada., Madroño, 16(3):77-90

Murdy WH, 1979. Effect of SO2 on sexual reproduction in Lepidium virginicum L. originating from regions with different SO2 concentrations., Botanical Gazette, 140(3):299-303

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Orsini F, D’Urzo MP, Inan G, Serra S, Oh D, Mickelbart MV, Consiglio F, Li X, Jeong JC, Yun D, Bohnert HJ, Bressan RA, Maggio A, 2010. A comparative study of salt tolerance parameters in 11 wild relatives of Arabidopsis thaliana., Journal of Experimental Botany, 61(13):3787-3798

Osuna L, Tapia-Pérez ME, Figueroa O, Jiménez-Ferrer E, Garduño-Ramírez ML, González-Garza, MT, Carranza-Rosales P, Cruz-Vega DE, 2006. Micropropagation of Lepidium virginicum (Brassicaceae), a plant with antiprotozoal activity., In Vitro Cellular Developmental Biology-Plant, 42:596-600

Otero-Pujol LH, Prado-Amián RD, Sabater-Muñoz B, Moreno P, Peña L, Navarro L, 2015. Presence of weed biotypes with suspected resistance to glyphosate in the agroecosystem of citrus orchards in Cuba: a latent threat., Acta Horticulturae, 1065:1867-1869

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Richardson RJ, Zandstra BH, 2009. Weed control in Christmas trees with flumioxazin and other residual herbicides applied alone or in tank mixtures., HorTechnology, 19(1):181-186

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Links to Websites

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CONABIO. Malezas de Mexico.­virginicum/fichas/ficha.htm#6.
Dave’s Garden
eFlora of India
Euro+Med Plantbase ­ the information resource for Euro­Mediterranean plant diversity
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 Invasive Species Database
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Information on California plants for education, research and conservation.
Millennium Seed Bank
Online Atlas of the British & Irish Flora
Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide


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12/10/2016 Original text by:

Jeanine Vélez-Gavilán, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez

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