Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Melinis minutiflora
(molasses grass)

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Datasheet

Melinis minutiflora (molasses grass)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Melinis minutiflora
  • Preferred Common Name
  • molasses grass
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. minutiflora is a grass which is used widely as a fodder species for livestock and for its ability to grow well on poor soils, but which is also strongly invasive. It has been introduced intentionally around...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Typical habit.
TitleHabit
CaptionTypical habit.
CopyrightGrus Farley
Typical habit.
HabitTypical habit.Grus Farley
Stem and leaves.
TitleStem
CaptionStem and leaves.
CopyrightGrus Farley
Stem and leaves.
StemStem and leaves.Grus Farley
Stem and leaf base.
TitleStem
CaptionStem and leaf base.
CopyrightGrus Farley
Stem and leaf base.
StemStem and leaf base.Grus Farley
Leaves.
TitleLeaves
CaptionLeaves.
CopyrightGrus Farley
Leaves.
LeavesLeaves.Grus Farley
Flower spikelets.
TitleFlower
CaptionFlower spikelets.
CopyrightGrus Farley
Flower spikelets.
FlowerFlower spikelets.Grus Farley
Seed head.
TitleSeeds
CaptionSeed head.
CopyrightGrus Farley
Seed head.
SeedsSeed head.Grus Farley
Spikelet and apex of sterile lemma.
TitleSpikelet
CaptionSpikelet and apex of sterile lemma.
CopyrightKurt G. Kissmann
Spikelet and apex of sterile lemma.
SpikeletSpikelet and apex of sterile lemma.Kurt G. Kissmann

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Melinis minutiflora P. Beauv.

Preferred Common Name

  • molasses grass

Other Scientific Names

  • Agrostis glutinosa Fisch. ex Kunth
  • Melinis maitlandii Stapf and Hubbard
  • Melinis purpurea Stapf and Hubbard
  • Melinis tenuinervis Stapf
  • Muehlenbergia brasiliensis Steud.
  • Panicum melinis Trin.
  • Panicum minutiflorum (P. Beauv.) Rasp.
  • Suardia picta Shrank
  • Tristegis glutinosa Nees

International Common Names

  • English: Brazilian stink grass; Brazilian stinkgrass; honey grass; stink grass; Whynne grass
  • Spanish: capin melado; chopín; pasto miel; yaraguá; yerba melado; zacate gordura
  • French: herbe à miel; herbe molasses
  • Chinese: tang mi cao

Local Common Names

  • Australia: stink grass; stinkgrass
  • Brazil: capim gordura; capim melado; capim-cabelo-de-negro; capim-catingueiro; capim-de-frei-luiz; capim-gordo; capim-graxa; capim-meloso; catingueiro
  • Chile: hierba de melado
  • Costa Rica: calinguero
  • Cuba: cantingueiro del Brasil; capín gordura
  • Germany: Fettgras; Melassegras
  • Italy: melinide
  • USA: greasy grass
  • Venezuela: capín melao; capín meñao; catinguero

EPPO code

  • MILMI (Melinis minutiflora)

Summary of Invasiveness

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M. minutiflora is a grass which is used widely as a fodder species for livestock and for its ability to grow well on poor soils, but which is also strongly invasive. It has been introduced intentionally around the world, and also probably accidentally as a seed contaminant. It is difficult to eradicate when present, and poses a threat to agriculture and the environment. This species is highly invasive and grows forming dense mats that exclude native species, alter successional processes, reduce native tree and grass regeneration, and increase intensity and frequency of fires (Hoffmann et al., 2004).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Cyperales
  •                         Family: Poaceae
  •                             Genus: Melinis
  •                                 Species: Melinis minutiflora

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Poaceae is one of the largest families in the Angiosperms including about 707 genera and over 11,000 species widely distributed in all regions of the world. The genus Melinis is included within the subfamily Panicoideae in the subtribe Melinidinae (Stevens, 2012). The subtribe Melinidinae is characterized by C4 photosynthesis and includes genera that are remarkably variable in vegetative and reproductive characters (Morrone et al., 2012). The genus Melinis is closely related to the genera Leucophrys, Moorochloa and Tricholaena and shares morphological characters such as disarticulation at the base of the upper anthecium and a smooth and shiny upper anthecium (Morrone et al., 2012). 

Description

Top of page Plants are of diffuse growth habit, some reaching 2 m high. Culms 1-2 m long, cylindrical, 2-4 mm in diameter, intensely nodose with thick nodes and geniculate internodes, decumbent for almost all their length, terminally ascending. From lowest nodes there is some ramification with sterile tillers and a few adventitious roots. Root system fibrous with rhizomes present. Culms hairless, light green on the part covered by sheath. Sheets open, sometimes longer than the internode, particularly on the last leaf the sheet can be 3 times as long as the blade. Ligule a fringe of short hairs 1 mm long. Blades up to 15 cm long with a rounded base, narrowing to an acute apex. Leaves hairy on both sides, and at the base of hairs there are glands that secrete a sticky fluid with a sweet smell. On developed plants the lower leaves die, mostly because light cannot reach them. Compound panicles at the apex of culms, 15-25 cm long, erect, initially compact cylindrical, later loose pyramidal, very showy for their purple-reddish colour in most varieties, light coloured in others. Spikelets oblong, narrow and compressed, 1.8-2.4 mm long, lower bract reduced to a scale 3 mm long, upper bract strongly grooved with 7 nerves, one sterile floret with the lemma generally presenting a long awn and a terminal, hermaphrodite floret with an awnless lemma. Spikelets fall off entire, being easily dispersed by wind. Seed a lanceolate caryopsis with acute base and apex, with a bristle 1 mm long, pericarp smooth, brown-greenish. Seedlings can be easily recognized by the first leaf being ovate-orbicular, lying flat on the ground (Kissmann and Groth, 1997).

Plant Type

Top of page Grass / sedge
Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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M. minutiflora is native to tropical Africa, where it occurs in two disjunct populations in the east and west of the continent (Hauser, 2008). It has been widely introduced into many tropical and subtropical countries for cultivation as fodder. Currently it can be found cultivated and naturalized in tropical and temperate Asia, Australia, Hawaii, North America, Central America and parts of South America and in large areas of Brazil (see Distribution Table for details). 

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

Asia

BhutanRestricted distributionIntroduced Not invasive Noltie, 2000
ChinaPresentPeng et al., 2006
-GuangdongPresentPeng et al., 2006
-Hong KongPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Cultivated and naturalized
-YunnanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2014Cultivated and naturalized
IndiaRestricted distributionIntroduced1937Shukla, 1996
-Andhra PradeshRestricted distributionIntroducedShukla, 1996
-AssamPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
-KeralaPresentRavi et al., 2004
-ManipurRestricted distributionIntroducedShukla, 1996
-MeghalayaRestricted distributionIntroducedShukla, 1996
-Uttar PradeshRestricted distributionIntroducedShukla, 1996
-West BengalRestricted distributionIntroducedShukla, 1996
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedPattiselanno, 2008Cultivated and naturalized
-JavaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014Cultivated and naturalized
-SumatraPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014Cultivated and naturalized
MyanmarPresentIntroduced Not invasive Noltie, 2000
PakistanPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014Cultivated and naturalized
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014Cultivated and naturalized
TaiwanWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014
VietnamPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014Cultivated and naturalized

Africa

AngolaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
BurundiPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
CameroonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
Cape VerdePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003; Clayton et al., 2014Naturalized
ComorosPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
CongoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
Côte d'IvoirePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
EgyptPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014Naturalized
Equatorial GuineaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
EthiopiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
GhanaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
GuineaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
KenyaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
LiberiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
MadagascarPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
MalawiPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
MozambiquePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
NigeriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
RéunionPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
RwandaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
Sierra LeonePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
SomaliaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
South AfricaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014Naturalized
SudanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
SwazilandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
TanzaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
TogoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
UgandaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
ZambiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
ZimbabwePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003

North America

MexicoWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
Costa RicaPresentIntroduced Invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003; Chacon and Saborio, 2012
CubaPresentIntroduced Invasive Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
DominicaPresentIntroducedBroome et al., 2007
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2003
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2003
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
HondurasPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2003
JamaicaPresentIntroduced Invasive Kairo et al., 2003; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003
MartiniquePresentIntroduced Invasive Broome et al., 2007
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2003
PanamaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2003
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2002; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003; Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
BoliviaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2003
BrazilWidespread Invasive Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
-AlagoasPresentIntroduced Invasive
-BahiaPresentIntroduced Invasive
-CearaPresentIntroduced Invasive
-Espirito SantoPresentIntroduced Invasive
-GoiasPresentIntroduced Invasive
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentIntroduced Invasive
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroduced Invasive
-ParaibaPresentIntroduced Invasive
-ParanaPresentIntroduced Invasive
-PernambucoPresentIntroduced Invasive
-PiauiPresentIntroduced Invasive
-Rio de JaneiroPresentIntroduced Invasive
-Rio Grande do NortePresentIntroduced Invasive
-Sao PauloPresentIntroduced Invasive
-SergipePresentIntroduced Invasive
ChilePresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Easter IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
ColombiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003; IABIN, 2014
EcuadorPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2003
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
GuyanaPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
ParaguayPresentIntroduced Invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003; IABIN, 2014
PeruPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2003
SurinamePresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014
UruguayPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014
VenezuelaPresentIntroduced Invasive Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003; IABIN, 2014

Europe

PortugalPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedClayton et al., 2014Naturalized
SpainPresentPresent based on regional distribution.

Oceania

American SamoaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedQueensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011Naturalized
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2003; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011
-TasmaniaPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2003
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2003
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2003Naturalized
FijiPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
GuamPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014Cultivated and naturalized
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
NiuePresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
Norfolk IslandPresentIntroduced Invasive Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
PalauPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2014
TongaPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
VanuatuPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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M.minutiflora was first introduced into the Americas at the end of the 1800s, spreading in the 1900s to many countries. Due to its good forage quality, it is cultivated in many cattle raising regions. In Hawaii, M. minutiflora was introduced in the early 1900s for cattle forage, and was first collected on Lana’i Island in 1914 (Hauser, 2008). It was introduced to Moloka’i Island in the 1920s, and by the 1940s was present in Volcanoes National Park.

In Brazil, the original introduction was accidental but it was then dispersed intentionally for grazing purposes in regions of poor soil, and today, large areas in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Goiás, Mato Grosso and others are covered by this weed. In Puerto Rico this species was intentionally introduced in 1913 from Brazil and planted in the Experimental Station in Mayagüez. It is currently common throughout disturbed vegetation on the island (US National Herbarium). Shukla (1996) records that it was first introduced to India in 1937. 

Risk of Introduction

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It is highly likely that M. minutiflora will spread further due either to intentional introduction as a fodder grass, or accidental introduction as a contaminant of crop seeds. There are large parts of Asia where this species is not yet apparently present and which may suffer from invasion.

Habitat

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M. minutiflora is well adapted to tropical and subtropical areas. As cultivated plants, there are varieties which have different environmental preferences. Plants which have escaped from cultivation colonize surrounding areas and in Brazil for example, it can be found on elevated clay soils of the Amazon basin as well as in woodland along the Atlantic coast. In Peru, it is found in Andropogon savannas, while in Florida it has been collected in slash pine rocklands (Hauser, 2008). In general, M. minutiflora can be found growing along roadsides, forest margins, open woodlands, pastures, disturbed sites, and waste areas in wet and sunny areas. It can also grow as a weed in sugarcane, rice and cereal plantations (Cook et al., 2005; Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011). 

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Present, no further details Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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M. minutiflora is an aggresive invasive plant in pastures, dominating other species, also in areas being forested as well as in some plantation crops, like coffee (Aistizábal and Posada, 1987). It is a weed in rice, sugarcane and cereal plantations. 

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Coffea (coffee)RubiaceaeUnknown
Oryza sativa (rice)PoaceaeMain
Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)PoaceaeMain

Growth Stages

Top of page Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for M. minutiflora is 2n = 36. There is considerable genetic variation within the species, with many varieties or races represented in Brazil and other American countries.

Reproductive Biology

M. minutiflora flowers mostly in April and June in the southern hemisphere, the spikes producing a great quantity of spikelets with one caryopsis. In Hawaii, it flowers in a synchronous burst in late November, while in Florida it flowers in autumn (Hauser, 2008). In Brazil, seed production has been shown to be around 72,000 and 82,000 viable seeds per square metre for the cultivars Cabelo-de-Negro and Roxo, respectively (Martins et al., 2009). The reproduction is mostly by apomixes and seeds are dispersed by wind (Williams and Baruch, 2000). For cultivation, the sowing rate depends on the purity and quality of the seeds. It also spreads vegetative through stolons and rhizomes.

Physiology and Phenology

M. minutiflora is a robust perennial plant, growing well even on poor soil, under full as well as diffuse illumination. It possesses a C4 photosynthetic pathway. Seedlings establish best on well prepared soil, but in burned land preparation of soil is generally not necessary. It spreads quickly and grows vigorously on a wide range of soil types, but does not tolerate waterlogging or flooding. In areas of hot summers or cold winters the vegetation takes a temporary rest.

Environmental Requirements

Frost generally kills the plants. Optimal temperatures range from 14°C to 27°C. The plant is found in tropical and subtropical areas at elevations from 300 to 2400 m. It has naturalized in areas with annual rainfall ranging from 750mm to 2500mm but mostly from 1000mm to 2000mm.  The species is well adapted to drought and it can resist up to 5 months of dry season. It is also adapted to moderate fire and after fire rapidly regenerates from remaining portions (Cook et al., 2005). Once established, plants are resistant to animal trampling. 

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
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]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (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])
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated 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)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
0 2400

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 0
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 15 30
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 20 35
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 5 15

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration15number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall7502500mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal
Summer
Uniform

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • impeded

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • shallow

Notes on Natural Enemies

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M. minutiflora is generally little affected by insects or disease. The exudate is repulsive to many arthropods. However, the following species of fungi, nematodes and diseases have been reported on M. minutiflora (Cook et al., 2005):

(1) Fungi: Claviceps sp., Corticium solani [Thanatephorus cucumeris], Fusarium graminearum [Gibberella zeae], F. Sambucinum [Gibberella pulicaris], Phyllachora graminis, P. melinicola, Uredo melinidis, and Uromyces setariae-italicae.

(2) Nematodes: Helicotylenchus dihystera, Hemicriconemoides cocophilus, Meloiodgyne javanica, Peltamigratus nigeriensis, and Scutellonema clathricaudatum. 

 (3) A stunting virus disease carried by Malaxodes farinosus, affects some varieties in Kenya.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Dispersal is almost exclusively by wind that can disperse spikelets long distances. People disperse the plant locally for cultivation. Long distance dispersal may happen through export and import of seeds as a contaminant in cereal grains or transplant material. There continues to be interest in this species for economic reasons as a fodder.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal productionPlanted as a forage and fodder Yes Yes Cook et al., 2005
DisturbanceEscape from cultivation Yes Yes Cook et al., 2005
ForagePlanted as forage and fodder Yes Yes Cook et al., 2005
Habitat restoration and improvementPlanted in poor soils and to control erosion Yes Yes Cook et al., 2005

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activities Yes Yes
Machinery and equipment Yes Yes
Soil, sand and gravel Yes
Wind Yes Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Bark
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes
Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx
Fruits (inc. pods)
Growing medium accompanying plants
Leaves
Roots
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches
True seeds (inc. grain)
Wood

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production Negative
Cultural/amenity Negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production Negative
Human health None
Livestock production Positive
Native fauna None
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None

Economic Impact

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There are positive impacts of M. minutiflora by permitting the use of poor land for cattle and milk production. In Minas Gerais, Brazil, it is the preferred fodder plant because of high production of good quality forage, and it is said to increase milk output. The exudate from the glands on the leaves is irritating to most insects, which do not stay where the plants are, and this is beneficial to cattle, reducing the numbers of ticks, flies and mosquitoes.

M. minutiflora is a weed in rice, sugarcane, cereals and coffee plantations (Holm et al., 1979), and also becomes dominant when it grows in pastures. Its weedy nature, and the way dense infestations prevent growth of native species, means that negative impacts generally outweigh the positive in most areas. 

Environmental Impact

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M. minutiflora forms dense infestations preventing the growth of any other species. For instance, native woodlands in Hawaii and native “Cerrado” forests in Brazil are now converted to grasslands dominated by M. minutiflora. In these areas, M. minutiflora grows forming a dense monospecific mat which completely outcompete native vegetation, disrupts successional processes, reduces native tree and native grasses regeneration, alters nutrient regimes and increases fire intensity and frequency (Hughes et al., 1991; Hoffmann et al., 2004; Hoffmann and Haridasan, 2008). The species can be very persistent: in Hawaiian woodlands, D’Antonio et al. (2011) reported that burned sites dominated by M. minutiflora in 1991 were still dominated by this grass.

In areas where M. minutiflora has become invasive it is negatively impacting native biodiversity. In Hawaii native “Metrosideros woodlands” are replaced by grasslands dominated by M. minutiflora and this conversion is indirectly impacting the conservation of endangered species such as Pittosporum terminalioides (Hughes et al., 1991). Wagner et al. (1999) report that the species “appears capable of displacing” many of the native lowland mesic shrublands in Hawaii. References cited in Hauser (2008) also suggest that the grass promotes higher nitrogen levels in soil, and that this may promote further establishment of M. minutiflora and other non-native species in Hawaiian shrublands that are normally nutrient-poor.

M. minutiflora also hinders the establishment of other plants by secreting allelopathic substances (Marinero, 1964).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Abutilon sandwicense (greenflower Indian mallow)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shading; Competition - smotheringUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998
Asplenium unisorum (singlesorus island spleenwort)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Competition - shading; Competition - smotheringUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998
Cyanea recta (Kealia cyanea)National list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995b
Cyrtandra limahuliensis (Limahuli cyrtandra)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995b
Drosophila aglaiaUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alterationNatureServe, 2010
Drosophila hemipezaUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alterationNatureServe, 2010
Drosophila heteroneuraUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alterationNatureServe, 2010
Drosophila montgomeryiUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alterationNatureServe, 2010
Drosophila musaphilaUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alterationNatureServe, 2010
Drosophila substenopteraUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alterationNatureServe, 2010
Isodendrion longifolium (longleaf isodendrion)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011d
Lobelia monostachya (Waianae Range lobelia)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998
Lobelia niihauensis (Niihau lobelia)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998
Melanthera tenuifolia (Waianae Range nehe)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998
Melicope christopherseniiEN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012b
Melicope hiiakaeNatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012b
Melicope makahaeEN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012b
Nototrichium humile (kaala rockwort)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingNational Tropical Botanical Garden, 2007; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008a
Peucedanum sandwicense (makou)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011c
Phyllostegia glabra var. lanaiensis (ulihi phyllostegia)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995a
Phyllostegia hirsuta (Molokai phyllostegia)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008b
Phyllostegia parviflora (smallflower phyllostegia)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008c
Pittosporum napaliense (royal cheesewood)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010f
Platydesma rostrataCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010f
Poa mannii (Mann's bluegrass)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010a
Pritchardia munroi (Kamalo pritchardia)No DetailsHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1996; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011a
Pritchardia napaliensisCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010b
Psychotria hobdyi (Hobdy's wild-coffee)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered species; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010f
Remya mauiensis (Maui remya)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009a
Sanicula mariversa (Waianae Range blacksnakeroot)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998
Santalum freycinetianum var. lanaienseNo DetailsHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011e
Scaevola coriacea (dwarf naupaka)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010h
Schiedea hookeri (sprawling schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011f
Schiedea kaalae (Oahu schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998
Schiedea kealiae (Waianae Range schiedea)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010c
Schiedea lydgatei (Kamalo Gulch schiedea)NatureServe NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011g
Schiedea nuttalliiCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1999; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009b
Schiedea sarmentosaUSA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011h
Silene alexandriCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008d
Silene lanceolata (Kauai catchfly)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010i
Silene perlmanii (cliffface catchfly)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resources; Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012a
Spermolepis hawaiiensis (Hawaii scaleseed)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010j
Stenogyne bifida (twocleft stenogyne)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010d
Stenogyne kanehoana (Oahu stenogyne)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998
Tetramolopium filiforme (ridgetop tetramolopium)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010k
Tetramolopium lepidotum (Waianae Range tetramolopium)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009c
Tetramolopium remyi (Awalua Ridge tetramolopium)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - stranglingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995a
Vigna o-wahuensis (Oahu cowpea)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiEcosystem change / habitat alteration; Pest and disease transmissionUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011b
Viola chamissoniana subsp. chamissoniana (pamakani)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008e
Viola lanaiensis (Hawaii violet)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alterationUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1995a
Wilkesia hobdyi (dwarf iliau)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered); National list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition (unspecified)US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010e

Social Impact

Top of page There are very positive social impacts for poor farmers in regions with poor soil, by providing good fodder for animals. The increase risk of fire may, however, pose a threat near to built-up areas.

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
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Reproduces asexually
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Increases vulnerability to invasions
  • Modification of fire regime
  • Modification of hydrology
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Soil accretion
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition - strangling
  • Competition
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Rapid growth
  • Rooting
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

Top of page

M. minutiflora is an excellent forage plant for cattle, being very palatable not just because of the foliage itself, but also because of the exudate 'honey' on the leaves (Bogdan, 1977). Fresh weight production can reach 30 t/ha on fertile land. Dry matter contains about 9% crude protein and also contains fatty substances. In earlier times, the species constituted the feeding basis for cattle in the states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Goiás and Mato Grosso, Brazil. Even today, M. minutiflora is an important fodder plant in Brazil for beef and milk cattle, normally for grazing but also some haymaking (Pio Corrêa, 1926). When used for grazing, plants should be allowed to first reach 35-45 cm in height. If cut for haymaking, cuts at about 10 cm from ground level result in higher herbage than closer cutting.

The repellent effect of M. minutiflora against insects is being exploited through its use as an intercrop in maize in the 'push-pull' technique for controlling the stem-borers Chilo partellus and Busseola fusca in East Africa (Khan et al., 2001). The system has been adopted by more than 30,000 smallholder farmers in East Africa where maize yields have increased from ~1t/ha to 3.5t/ha (Khan et al., 2010).

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page

M. minutiflora is distinct from most other grasses because its young leaves present glands that exudate a sticky and viscid smelly substance. Whereas some other African species of Melinis are also sticky, M. minutiflora is the only species with deeply grooved spikelets. M. minutiflora looks very similar to Melinis repens and these two species can be distinguished by the following differences (Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, 2011):

  • Melinis minutiflora is a mat-forming plant with creeping (stoloniferous) stems and semi-upright flowering stems. Its flower spikelets are quite small (1.5-2.5 mm long) and mostly hairless, but usually bear a small hair-like awn (0-15 mm long).
  • Melinis repens is a tufted plant with upright (erect) or semi-upright (ascending) flowering stems. Its flower spikelets are relatively large (2-12 mm long) and densely covered in silky, reddish-colored hairs. 

Prevention and Control

Top of page

M.minutiflora can be controlled by preventing the plants from forming seeds. Mechanical control involves cutting and removing rhizomes and culms from the area. Glyphosate and fluazifop-P are herbicides in use as effective chemical control. No known use of biological control has been reported.

References

Top of page

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Peng GuiXiang, Wang HuaRong, Zhang GuoXia, Hou Wei, Liu Yang, Wang EnTao, Tan ZhiYuan, 2006. Azospirillum melinis sp. nov., a group of diazotrophs isolated from tropical molasses grass. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, 56(6):1263-1271. http://ijs.sgmjournals.org

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US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008. Phyllostegia parviflora (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Phyllostegia parviflora (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.12 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008. Silene alexandri (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Silene alexandri (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.10 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008. Viola chamissoniana ssp. chamissoniana (Pamakani). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Viola chamissoniana ssp. chamissoniana (Pamakani). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.11 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009. Remya mauiensis (Maui remya). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Remya mauiensis (Maui remya). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.15 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009. Schiedea nuttallii (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Schiedea nuttallii (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.13 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009. Tetramolopium lepidotum ssp. lepidotum (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Tetramolopium lepidotum ssp. lepidotum (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.13 pp.

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US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010. 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Species Reviewed: Pritchardia napaliensis (loulu palm). In: 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Species Reviewed: Pritchardia napaliensis (loulu palm) : US Fish and Wildlife Service.10 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010. 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Species Reviewed: Schiedea kealiae (ma oli oli). In: 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Species Reviewed: Schiedea kealiae (ma oli oli) : US Fish and Wildlife Service.6 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010. 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Species Reviewed: Stenogyne bifida (no common name). In: 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Species Reviewed: Stenogyne bifida (no common name) : US Fish and Wildlife Service.8 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010. 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Wilkesia hobdyi (dwarf iliau). In: 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Wilkesia hobdyi (dwarf iliau) : US Fish and Wildlife Service.8 pp.

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US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010. Silene lanceolata (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Silene lanceolata (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.15 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010. Spermolepis hawaiiensis (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Spermolepis hawaiiensis (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.19 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010. Tetramolopium filiforme (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Tetramolopium filiforme (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.11 pp.

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US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011. 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Vigna o-wahuensis (no common name). In: 5-Year Review, Short Form Summary: Vigna o-wahuensis (no common name) : US Fish and Wildlife Service.10 pp.

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US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011. Santalum freycinetianum var. lanaiense, Lanai sandalwood ('iliahi). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Santalum freycinetianum var. lanaiense, Lanai sandalwood ('iliahi). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.19 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011. Schiedea hookeri (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Schiedea hookeri (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.20 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011. Schiedea lydgatei (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Schiedea lydgatei (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.17 pp.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2011. Schiedea sarmentosa (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Schiedea sarmentosa (no common name). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.14 pp.

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Contributors

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27/06/14 Updated by:

Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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