Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Mimosa diplotricha
(creeping sensitive plant)



Mimosa diplotricha (creeping sensitive plant)


  • Last modified
  • 13 December 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Mimosa diplotricha
  • Preferred Common Name
  • creeping sensitive plant
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. diplotricha (syn. M. invisa) is a small, often scrambling, neotropical shrub that has invaded many countries in the old tropics and many oceanic islands. In recent decades it has spread to...

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M. diplotricha plant and flowers.
TitlePlant and flowers
CaptionM. diplotricha plant and flowers.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
M. diplotricha plant and flowers.
Plant and flowersM. diplotricha plant and flowers.©Colin Wilson
M. diplotricha - creeping sensitive plant.
TitleGrowth habit
CaptionM. diplotricha - creeping sensitive plant.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
M. diplotricha - creeping sensitive plant.
Growth habitM. diplotricha - creeping sensitive plant.©Colin Wilson
M. diplotricha stem.
CaptionM. diplotricha stem.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
M. diplotricha stem.
StemM. diplotricha stem.©Colin Wilson
M. diplotricha flowers.
CaptionM. diplotricha flowers.
M. diplotricha flowers.
FlowersM. diplotricha flowers.NOVARTIS
Scamurius sp. adult and nymphs on M. diplotricha.
TitleNatural enemy - Scamurius sp.|On M. diplotricha
CaptionScamurius sp. adult and nymphs on M. diplotricha.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Scamurius sp. adult and nymphs on M. diplotricha.
Natural enemy - Scamurius sp.|On M. diplotrichaScamurius sp. adult and nymphs on M. diplotricha.©Colin Wilson


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Mimosa diplotricha C. Wright

Preferred Common Name

  • creeping sensitive plant

Other Scientific Names

  • Mimosa invisa C. Mart.
  • Morongia pilosa Standley
  • Schrankia brachycarpa Benth.
  • Schrankia pilosa (Standley) Macbr.

International Common Names

  • English: giant false sensitive plant; giant sensitive plant
  • Spanish: dormilona de playa; rabo de iguana; raspancilla; sensitiva trepadora (Cuba)
  • French: grande sensitive; sensitive géante

Local Common Names

  • American Samoa: vao fefe palagi
  • Brazil: analeira; dormideira; juquirí-rasteiro; malicia-de-mulher; sensitiva
  • Cambodia: banla saet (balna sael)
  • Cook Islands: pikika'a papa'a
  • Fiji: co gadrogadro; wa ngandrongandro ni wa ngalelevu; wagadrogadro levu
  • Germany: Mimose, Übersehene
  • India: anathottavadi
  • Indonesia: pis koetjing
  • Indonesia/Java: rèmbètè
  • Indonesia/Nusa Tenggara: boring (borang); djoekoet borang; puteri malu
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: limemeihr laud; limemeirlap (Pohnpei
  • Northern Mariana Islands: nila grass; singbiguin sasa
  • Palau: mechiuaiu
  • Papua New Guinea: nil grass
  • Philippines: makahiang lalake (makahiang malake); makahiya
  • Samoa: la'au fefe palagi; vao fefe palagi
  • Thailand: maiyaraap thao
  • Vietnam: cõ trinh nu móc

EPPO code

  • MIMIN (Mimosa diplotricha)

Summary of Invasiveness

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M. diplotricha (syn. M. invisa) is a small, often scrambling, neotropical shrub that has invaded many countries in the old tropics and many oceanic islands. In recent decades it has spread to new regions and has the potential to invade more tropical areas. It forms impenetrable spiny thickets that invade highly disturbed sites, but agricultural systems in particular. The shrub produces large quantities of seeds at an early age and has a persistent seed bank. It is extremely difficult to control effectively using mechanical or chemical means, however, biological control programmes have had a large degree of success.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Fabales
  •                         Family: Fabaceae
  •                             Subfamily: Mimosoideae
  •                                 Genus: Mimosa
  •                                     Species: Mimosa diplotricha

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Mimosa is from the Greek mimikos which means 'to mimic' or 'counterfeit', through the Latin mimus and the feminine suffix -osa which means abounding in, and refers to several flowers masquerading as a single flower. Invisa is from the Latin invideo which means 'to hate', referring to the abundant thorns (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).

Mimosa diplotricha was known as M. invisa Martius, but the M. invisa of Colla is older (ILDIS, 2001). However, this taxon is still called M. invisa in Africa (i.e. Nigeria) and occasionally in Asia (e.g. the Philippines, MacLean et al., 2003). In the neotropics, Barneby (1991) recognised two subspecies (invisa and spiciflora) each with two varieties. Several taxonomic authorities are observed, with Sauvalle, C. Wright, and C. Wright ex Sauville all used.

A thornless form, M. diplotricha var. inermis (Verdcourt, 1988) arose in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).


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The following information is adapted from Holm et al. (1977); Kostermans et al. (1987); Waterhouse and Norris (1987); Henty and Pritchard (1988); Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992) and Noda et al. (1994).

M. diplotricha is a scrambling, strongly branched shrub growing 1-2 m tall, woody at the base with age, with stems stretching to about 6 m long, forming low, tangled masses or climbing on other vegetation with the aid of its spiny stems. The green or purplish tinged stems are 4- or 5-angled in cross-section and covered with abundant sharp, recurved, yellowish spines, 3-6 mm long, on the angles and fine, white hairs. According to Henty and Pritchard (1988) the stems do not root above the base, but according to Kostermans et al. (1987) they do. The root system has a robust and branching taproot extending to 1-2 m in depth and often woody at the crown. There are characteristic rhizobial nodules on the root hairs.

The scattered bright-green leaves are finely bipinnate and 10-20 cm long. The leaves consist of 4-9 pairs of pinnae, 3-6 cm long, each with 12-30 pairs of opposite, sessile, lanceolate, acute leaflets, 6-12 mm long and 1.5 mm wide. The leaflet pairs fold together when touched and at nightfall, but they are considered as only moderately sensitive. The rachis is thickened at the base with slender, tapering stipules, and finely hairy with a few prickles along the back.

The flowers are pinkish-violet in colour and occur in globose heads about 12 mm in diameter, singly, in pairs or threes on individual stalks originating in the axils of young leaves. The peduncles are 6-10 mm long and hairy. The corolla is 2 mm long, regular, 4-lobed and green at the tips, with 8 pinkish-violet exserted stamens. The flat, softly spiny, linear, 3-6 seeded pods are 10-35 mm long, 6-10 mm wide, occur in clusters in the leaf axils and break into 1-seeded joints which fall away from unbroken sutures. The seeds are yellow-brown, glossy, flattened, ovate and 2-3.5 mm long. There is a horseshoe-shaped ring on each face. The plant reproduces only by seed.

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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M. diplotricha is native to the neotropics, including much of South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean (Holm et al., 1977; Kostermans et al., 1987; Barneby, 1991, Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Willson and Garcia, 1992), however, it is unclear whether it is native to North America and parts of the Caribbean (Barneby, 1991). It has now become widespread throughout the wet tropics and subtropics, and is usually a very invasive species wherever introduced.

In Australia, it was confined to the north Queensland coastal region between Ingham and Cooktown, around Mackay, and at Brisbane (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; DAF, 2016), and it has the potential to spread to the Northern Territory and Western Australia (Groves et al., 2003). Indeed, it was found and eradicated in 2004 in Western Australia (Wilson, 2004). In Western Samoa, it is estimated that 85% of the villages on the island of Upolu are infested with the weed (Willson and Garcia, 1992). It commonly forms clumps up to 20 m in diameter in the Markham and Ramu Valleys in Papua New Guinea (Kuniata et al., 1993). In Vanuatu, the thorny form is limited to Malekula, although the thornless variety (M. diplotricha var. inermis) is used as a cover crop in coffee on Tanna (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987). On Peninsular Malaysia, it occurs in the States of Perlis, Kedah, Seberang Prai, northern Perak, Selangor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan and Johore (Baki and Prakash, 1994). In the Mekong Delta (Vietnam) the plant is viewed only as a minor weed (Triet, 2001).

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 ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes


CambodiaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Waterhouse, 1993; PIER, 2008; EPPO, 2014
ChinaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2008
-FujianPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
-GuangxiPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008; Wei et al., 2013
-Hong KongRestricted distributionIntroduced1995 Invasive Corlett, 1996
-YunnanPresentIntroducedWu et al., 2003
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)WidespreadIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2004
East TimorWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Wilson, 1995b
IndiaRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Thomas and Shantaram, 1984; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; EPPO, 2014
-AssamPresentIntroducedTea, 1977
-KarnatakaPresentIntroducedSannamarappa, 1987; Thomas and George, 1990
-KeralaPresentIntroducedSannamarappa, 1987; Alex et al., 1991
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedRai and Kanodia, 1980
IndonesiaRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Soerjani et al., 1987; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Moody, 1989; Siregar et al., 1990; Waterhouse, 1993; EPPO, 2014
-Irian JayaPresentIntroducedSoerjani et al., 1987; ILDIS, 2001
-JavaPresentIntroducedTaepongsorut, 1978; Soerjani et al., 1987
-KalimantanPresentSoerjani et al., 1987
-MoluccasPresentIntroducedSoerjani et al., 1987
-Nusa TenggaraPresentIntroducedWilson, 1995a; Soerjani et al., 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-SulawesiPresentIntroducedSoerjani et al., 1987
-SumatraPresentIntroducedWiersum, 1983
LaosPresentIntroducedMoody, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993
MalaysiaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Waterhouse, 1993; PIER, 2008; EPPO, 2014
-Peninsular MalaysiaWidespreadIntroducedWong, 1975; Baki and Prakash, 1994
MyanmarPresentIntroducedWaterhouse, 1993
PhilippinesRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Moody, 1989; Payawal et al., 1991; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Waterhouse, 1993; EPPO, 2014
SingaporePresentIntroducedWaterhouse, 1993; PIER, 2008
Sri LankaRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Yogaratnam et al., 1984; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Jayasinghe, 1991; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; EPPO, 2014
TaiwanRestricted distributionIntroduced1965 Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Wu et al., 2003; PIER, 2008; EPPO, 2014
ThailandWidespreadIntroducedWaterhouse and Norris, 1987; Moody, 1989; Napompeth, 1990; Waterhouse, 1993; Noda et al., 1994
VietnamRestricted distributionIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Moody, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993; EPPO, 2014


BurundiPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2001; Witt and Luke, 2017
CameroonPresentIntroducedRivoire, 1982
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2001
Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroducedLavabre, 1971
EthiopiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2001; Witt and Luke, 2017
GhanaPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2001
GuineaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Lisowski, 1996
MalawiPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017
MauritiusRestricted distributionIntroducedWaterhouse and Norris, 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; EPPO, 2014
MozambiquePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2001
NigeriaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Alabi et al., 2001; EPPO, 2014
RéunionPresentIntroducedPIER, 2004
RwandaPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2001; Witt and Luke, 2017
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive ILDIS, 2001; Witt and Luke, 2017
TogoPresentIntroducedILDIS, 2001
UgandaPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedILDIS, 2001

North America

MexicoPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
USARestricted distributionEPPO, 2014
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; EPPO, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
CubaPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
Dominican RepublicPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
El SalvadorPresentNativePIER, 2008
GuatemalaPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
HaitiPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
HondurasPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
JamaicaPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
NicaraguaPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008
PanamaPresentNativePIER, 2008
Puerto RicoPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
United States Virgin IslandsRestricted distributionEPPO, 2014

South America

ArgentinaRestricted distributionNativeHolm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; EPPO, 2014
BoliviaPresentNativeSmith and Killeen, 1994
BrazilPresentNativeHolm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Willson and Garcia, 1992
-AlagoasPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-AmazonasPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-BahiaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-CearaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Espirito SantoPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Fernando de NoronhaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-GoiasPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-MaranhaoPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Minas GeraisPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-ParaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-ParaibaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-ParanaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-PernambucoPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-PiauiPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Rio de JaneiroPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Santa CatarinaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Sao PauloPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-SergipePresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
ColombiaPresentNativeILDIS, 2001; PIER, 2008
EcuadorPresentNativeILDIS, 2001
ParaguayPresentNativeILDIS, 2001
PeruPresentNativeILDIS, 2001
VenezuelaPresentNativeILDIS, 2001


Micronesia, Federated states ofWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Esguerra, 1991Kosrae, Pohnpei, Yap (Waqab)
American SamoaPresentIntroduced Invasive Swarbrick, 1989; PIER, 2008Ofu, Tutuila
AustraliaRestricted distributionEPPO, 2014
-QueenslandWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Groves, 1991; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Willson and Garcia, 1992; PIER, 2008
-Western AustraliaEradicatedIntroducedWilson, 2004
Cook IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Swarbrick, 1989; PIER, 2008
FijiRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Swarbrick, 1989; PIER, 2008; EPPO, 2014
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Swarbrick, 1989; PIER, 2008Tahiti
GuamPresentIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2008
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Swarbrick, 1989; PIER, 2008New Caledonia, Ile Grande Terre
NiueRestricted distributionIntroduced1990s Invasive Konelio, 2003; PIER, 2008
Northern Mariana IslandsPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008Rota, Saipan,Tinian
PalauRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm and Michaels, 2003; PIER, 2008Angaur, Babeldaob, Koror, Malakal, Ngerkebesang
Papua New GuineaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Henty and Pritchard, 1988; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Kuniata, 1994; PIER, 2008; EPPO, 2014
SamoaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Swarbrick, 1989; Willson and Garcia, 1992; PIER, 2008Sabvai’i. Upolu
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive Smith and Whiteman, 1985; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Swarbrick, 1989; PIER, 2008
VanuatuPresentIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Swarbrick, 1989; PIER, 2008
Wallis and Futuna IslandsPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Invasive Orapa, 2003; PIER, 2008

History of Introduction and Spread

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M. diplotricha was first recorded in Indonesia on the island of Java in 1900 (Kostermans et al., 1987). It is known to have been present near Tully in Queensland, Australia since about 1929 (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992), was first recorded in Fiji in 1936 (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987), was introduced into Thailand from Indonesia in the 1960s (Napompeth, 1990) and was first reported in Western Samoa in 1972 (Whistler, 1983). M. diplotricha was introduced to Taiwan in 1965 as an ornamental and the first herbarium specimen was collected in 1976 (Wu et al., 2003). In Hong Kong, one sterile plant was noted in 1995, and further isolated specimens have been discovered as well as a large population and its eradication has been attempted (Corlett, 1996). It was introduced to Niue in the 1990s and its eradication is in progress (Konelio, 2003) as a collaborative project with Wallis and Futuna (Orapa, 2003), and several small patches present on Guam are subjected to an eradication programme (PIER, 2008).

A thornless form, M. diplotricha var. inermis (Verdcourt, 1988) arose in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). It was deliberately introduced to the Solomon Islands from Sulawesi in 1931-32 (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987) and was discovered in Java, Indonesia, in 1942 (Kostermans et al., 1987). It is also present in Vanuatu (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987), Papua New Guinea (Henty and Pritchard, 1988), India (Muniappan and Viraktamath, 1993) and Thailand (Gibson and Waring, 1994).

This species has only relatively recently reached some tropical regions, and has become a major weed of agricultural systems in Nigeria; timing of introduction here is unknown. Until the 1990s infestations in Nigeria remained limited to roadsides, ditch banks, and wastelands in the southern part of the country but then it became a major weed of cropping systems, including cassava, and is still spreading (Alabi et al., 2001).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Australia 1929? Yes No Waterhouse and Norris (1987); Waterhouse and Norris (1987)
Fiji 1936 Yes No Waterhouse and Norris (1987); Waterhouse and Norris (1987)
Indonesia 1900 Yes No Kostermans et al. (1987); Soerjani et al. (1987)
Samoa 1972 Yes No Whistler (1983)
Taiwan 1965 Yes No Wu et al. (2003)
Thailand Indonesia 1960? Yes No Whistler (1983)

Risk of Introduction

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There is little documentation of the ways in which M. diplotricha has been introduced, other than deliberately as a forage or ground cover, but it has to be assumed that it has often been as a result of contaminated crop seeds, in which case the risk of further spread is moderately strong. It has failed two weed risk analyses, being ‘rejected’ for Australia and ‘high risk’ for the Pacific (PIER, 2008), and is a declared noxious weed in Australia (Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia), Fiji and the USA (Hawaii) (PIER, 2008). It has the potential to be introduced, to spread and become a major weed in many tropical areas.


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M. diplotricha is a major weed in pastures, plantations and roadsides and can also be serious in crops. It grows best where fertility, soil and air humidity and light are all high and dies away in prolonged dry seasons (Swarbrick, 1997). In its native range, the shrub is often found in disturbed shrub-woodland, at the edge of gallery forest and open rocky places (Barneby, 1991). M. diplotricha commonly grows in crops, plantations and pastures, as well as on disturbed moist wastelands and along roadsides, drains and watercourses in tropical and subtropical regions (Holm et al., 1977; Kostermans et al., 1987; Henty and Pritchard, 1988; Swarbrick, 1989; Esguerra, 1991; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Willson and Garcia, 1992). It does not invade closed forests (Muniappan and Viraktamath, 1993).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Industrial / intensive livestock production systems Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rocky areas / lava flows Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Scrub / shrublands Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

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M. diplotricha is the principal weed of rubber and coconut in Papua New Guinea, rubber in Indonesia, sugarcane in Taiwan and the Philippines, lychee in Thailand, and tomato in the Philippines. It is considered a weed of sugarcane in Australia and India; cassava, soyabeans, maize, apple, citrus and tea in Indonesia; coconut in Sri Lanka; rubber in Malaysia; banana and tea in India; and abaca (Musa textilis) and pineapple in the Philippines (Wong, 1975; Holm et al., 1977; Tea Research Association, 1977; Aliudin and Kusumo, 1978; Taepongsorut, 1978; Mendoza, 1979; Suwanarak, 1988; Groves, 1991; Muniappan and Viraktamath, 1993). It is also considered a major threat to tropical pastures in Australia (Groves, 1991; Willson and Garcia, 1992), the Pacific islands (Swarbrick, 1989; Willson and Garcia, 1992), Papua New Guinea (Henty and Pritchard, 1988) and the Philippines (Holm et al., 1977). It is a weed of lowland rice in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam; of dry-seeded rice in the Philippines; and of upland rice in Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam (Kostermans et al., 1987; Moody, 1989). It is potentially the worst weed in plantations and arable lands of Fiji and the Philippines (Holm et al., 1977). It is also a weed of betelnut palm, arabica coffee, apples, cassava, banana and tobacco.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Growth Stages

Top of page Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Post-harvest, Vegetative growing stage

Biology and Ecology

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The chromosome number of M. diplotricha is reported to be 2n = 26 (Lewis, 2005), a diploid, in comparison to the tetraploid M. pudica (2n = 52) (Berger et al., 1958).

Reproductive Biology

Up to 20,000 seeds/m²/year can be produced (Kuniata et al., 1993), and it is precocious, as even seedlings a few weeks old can produce viable seed (Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Although the plant produces copious quantities of flowers, the percentage of floral and/or fruit abortions in Peninsular Malaysia is about 45-50%. Those in the north rarely produce fruits whereas those in the south produce fruits in abundance (Baki and Prakash, 1994).

The plant is extremely persistent because it produces physically and physiologically hard seeds which can survive in the soil for many years (Chadhokar, 1978; Henty and Pritchard, 1988; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Kuniata et al., 1993; Muniappan and Viraktamath, 1993). Seeds may remain dormant for up to 50 years (DAF, 2016). The seeds have a long dormancy period (Kostermans et al., 1987; Swarbrick, 1989), which can be broken by the heat from grass fires (Kuniata et al., 1993).

A recent study confirms that seed dormancy is not affected by light but is broken by scarification and by high temperatures (Chauhan and Johnson, 2008). When non-scarified seeds were exposed to high temperatures for 5 minutes, germination increased as temperature increased from 25°C to 120°C but declined to zero at 200°C. Germination occurred at moderate salinity, over a range of pH 4 to pH 10, and from depths of 2 cm but not from 10 cm. 

Physiology and Phenology

In its native range, M. diplotricha behaves as a perennial (Lorenzi, 1982), but in its introduced range it can be an annual, biennial (Holm et al., 1977; Muniappan and Viraktamath, 1993) or perennial shrub (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Noda et al., 1994). It is characterized by robust growth, which enables it to scramble over other vegetation, forming spreading, impenetrable, tangled thickets of undergrowth (Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Swarbrick, 1989; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Due to its rapid growth rate, each plant can cover an area of 2-3 m² in one growing season (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). It is extremely invasive, highly competitive, a prolific seed producer and is capable of spreading rapidly (Lockett and Ablin, 1990).

Although the seeds may germinate at any time of the year when the right conditions of moisture and temperature are met, most germination occurs at the beginning of the wet season (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). The first true leaf is deeply divided with several pairs of opposite leaflets and subsequent leaves are bipinnate (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).

Flowering may occur throughout the year (Holm et al., 1977; Kostermans et al., 1987; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987), but is concentrated late in the wet season (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). In Australia, M. diplotricha usually flowers and seeds from April through to the end of June, but in years when there is little cold weather, plants will seed from April through to December. Some plants can set seeds when only 10 cm high (DAF, 2016).

M. diplotricha is a nitrogen-fixing legume species.

Environmental Requirements

M. diplotricha grows best where fertility, soil and air humidity and light are all high and dies away in prolonged dry seasons (Swarbrick, 1997). Low temperatures limit the species but it tolerance limits are unclear. In Australia, reproduction is limited by cold (DAF, 2016),Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992)) and Hong Kong winters may be too cold for it to become an important component of the local vegetation (Corlett, 1996). It is a lowland species and in Bolivia, for instance, it has been recorded at an altitude of 270 m (Smith and Killeen, 1994) and up to 1000 m in Sao Paulo, Brazil (Barneby, 1991), or from sea level to an altitude of 1500-2000 m (Kostermans et al., 1987; Henty and Pritchard, 1988). It grows in light or heavy, moist, often poor soils in areas that are sunny or lightly shaded (Kostermans et al., 1987).


M. diplotricha has a woody taproot with nitrogen-fixing nodules on the laterals (Swarbrick, 1989).


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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]))
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])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
30 30

Air Temperature

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


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration04number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall10005000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • impeded

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • medium

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Balclutha Herbivore
Cercospora canescens Pathogen Stems
Corynespora cassiicola Pathogen
Euproctis fraterna Herbivore Leaves
Fusarium Pathogen
Heteropsylla cubana Herbivore Leaves/Stems
Heteropsylla spinulosa Herbivore Leaves/Stems
Scamurius Herbivore Leaves/Stems

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Waterhouse (1994) records that at least 70 species of insect attack M. diplotricha in Brazil and lists these and three fungi. Heteropsylla spinulosa was collected in Brazil and released in Australia and Western Samoa as a biological control agent against M. diplotricha. Nymphs and adults suck sap from leaflets, rachises and growing tips, the tips becoming thickened and brittle and growth is stunted, distorted and deformed. H. spinulosa adults are pale green, about 2.5 mm long and live for 3-10 days. Females lay about 15 eggs/day and a total of about 50 eggs. The nymphs pass through five instars, the life cycle is completed in 20-28 days, and H. spinulosa completes up to eight generations per year in its native range. The relatively short life cycle, combined with high egg production makes it possible for populations to increase rapidly, and adults disperse widely with the aid of the wind (Lockett and Ablin, 1990; Willson and Garcia, 1992; Kuniata et al., 1993).

Scamurius sp. was also collected in Brazil and introduced into Australia as a biological control agent. Adults and nymphs feed on the growing tips of the plants or on the leaf rachises. Feeding causes the collapse and death of the tip. The adult is green and brown with red on the abdomen under the wings. It is about 22 mm long. There are five instars prior to maturity, and the adults live for 2-3 months. Females lay up to 300 eggs (Anon., 1988).

Psigidia walkeri, a widespread moth in Brazil which feeds voraciously as a larva on leaves, flower buds, green pods, tender stems and branches of M. diplotricha (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987), is undergoing testing in quarantine in Australia as a potential biological control agent (M Vitelli, Tropical Weeds Research Centre, Queensland, Australia, personal communication, 1994). Other natural enemies of M. diplotricha in its native range, both insects and fungal pathogens, are listed by Waterhouse and Norris (1987).

In north-east India, where M. diplotricha is widely used as a soil rehabilitation crop, looper caterpillars (Semiothisa sp.) cause extensive defoliation (Anon., 1974). In Thailand, an endemic lymantriid moth Euproctis fraterna feeds on the young leaves and flowers (Napompeth, 1990). Kuniata and Nagaraja (1994) recorded 14 species of phytophagous insects feeding on M. diplotricha in Papua New Guinea, most of them polyphagous lepidopterans. Most of the insects were also collected on various cultivated crops. The fungal pathogen Corynespora cassiicola was recorded killing M. diplotricha plants in Queensland, Australia (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

Seeds are transported by running water (DAF, 2016) including floodwaters (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Spiny, barbed seeds are adapted to dispersal by being carried by the fur or feathers of animals and birds, or on clothing (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; DAF, 2016).

Accidental Introduction

M. diplotricha may be transported on vehicles, machinery and in contaminated earth (DAF, 2016). Seeds can also be distributed in contaminated hay, impure agricultural seed and construction materials, as well as by boats, vehicles and machinery (Holm et al., 1977; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Kuniata et al., 1993; DAF, 2016).

Impact Summary

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

Economic Impact

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M. diplotricha is regarded by Holm et al. (1977) as being one of the 76 worst weeds of the world. They list it as a weed of 13 crops in 18 countries. In Holm et al. (1979), it is classed as a ‘serious’ or ‘principal’ weed in Borneo, Fiji, Malaysia, Melanesia, New Guinea, West Polynesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Australia and Indonesia. Waterhouse and Norris (1987) consider it a serious weed in the Pacific islands, South-East Asia, Mauritius and Nigeria. It rapidly smothers crops and pastures in tropical and subtropical countries, reducing yields.

Where hand harvesting of crops is carried out, infested fields are made difficult and dangerous to work in, as the thorns can cause serious sores on humans (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987). Mechanical harvesters can also be jammed when used in infested crops (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). In Nigerian cassava fields, increasing populations of M. diplotricha rapidly decrease cassava tuber yields. When M. diplotricha density reached 630,000 plants per ha, cassava root yield 12 months after planting was reduced by 80% (Alabi et al., 2001). Also in Nigeria, it has been described as the most noxious weed in the Benin City metropolis where it has invaded farms, fallow fields and undeveloped building plots (Ogbe and Bamidele, 2006). In Papua New Guinea, M. diplotricha has a direct negative impact on growth, yield and harvesting of sugarcane, but no direct assessment of the actual economic losses has been made. However, on cattle ranches in the Markham Valley, up to US$130,000 is spent annually on chemical control (Kuniata, 1994).

There is evidence that M. diplotricha is toxic to stock (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Gibson and Waring, 1994), although Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992) report that a wether fed 60-90 g/day mixed with lucerne chaff did not suffer any adverse symptoms. In Thailand, 22 swamp buffaloes died 18-36 hours after eating M. diplotricha var. inermis (Tungtrakanpoung and Rhienpanish, 1992), with symptoms of salivation, stiffness, lack of mastication, muscular tremor, dyspnea and recumbency. The toxic elements were found to be cyanide and nitrite. Alex et al. (1991) reported a clinical case of M. diplotricha var. inermis poisoning of a 2-year-old Jersey-cross heifer in India, with the severity of the clinical signs and lesions correlated well with the quantity of the weed consumed. Other animals grazing in the same area did not develop any clinical signs of toxicity, and it appears as if the toxicity is also related to the stage of growth of the plant, and various other animal factors such as the development of tolerance. Tests in Queensland, Australia, show this variety to be toxic to sheep, and a report from Flores, Indonesia, suggests that it is toxic to pigs (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).

Environmental Impact

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It has the ability to climb over and smother other plants (Schultz, 2000) and can shade out light-demanding species, preventing the natural regeneration of other plants,and it constitutes a wildland fire hazard when dry (PIER, 2008). In Australia, it is considered that M. diplotricha can exert some intermittent competition and form dense mats to adversely affect the growth of a number of native species (Werren, 2001), that would seriously affect the ecology of native plants and animals if allowed to spread in Western Australia (Wilson, 2004).

Social Impact

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M. diplotricha has all the characteristics to negatively impact on human activities. The numerous sharp recurved prickles associated with a scrambling habit may give the impression, both visual and tactile, of a sort of 'organic (or green) barbed wire' Corlett, 1996, 2001). It makes human movement difficult in heavily infested areas, and M. diplotricha thickets become a serious fire hazard when dry (Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987).

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
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Host damage
  • Modification of fire regime
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts forestry
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid growth
  • Produces spines, thorns or burrs
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control


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In Queensland, Australia, M. diplotricha is considered unpalatable to stock (Lockett and Ablin, 1990). However, in a study on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, Smith and Whiteman (1985) found that it could be successfully grazed. They found that large impenetrable thickets developed at moderate animal densities when there was ample alternative browse and no compulsion to graze the Mimosa spp., but at higher animal densities, continued trampling and grazing reduced the percentage of M. diplotricha and led to an increase in Mimosapudica. While continually heavily grazed, both species of Mimosa were kept small.

M. diplotricha has a woody taproot with nitrogen-fixing nodules on the laterals (Swarbrick, 1989), and due to this and its tolerance for light shade, it was frequently used as a cover crop and soil renovator in plantations, adding nitrogen and organic matter, reducing erosion (Holm et al., 1977; Allen and Allen, 1981; Henty and Pritchard, 1988) and preventing cattle invading and damaging the estate crops (Alex et al., 1991). The spineless variety M. diplotricha var. inermis is preferable to the spiny variety, but is less effective as a cover crop (Henty and Pritchard, 1988). In rubber plantations in Indonesia, M. diplotricha is valued as it ousts Imperata cylindrica, which is considered a more troublesome weed, and it is rolled back with sticks to keep the boles of the rubber trees accessible (Kostermans et al., 1987). It is also used in coffee plantations in the Côte d'Ivoire as a weed control measure (Lavabre, 1971). In Sri Lanka, the use of M. diplotricha as a cover crop in rubber plantations improved the growth and girth of rubber trees more economically than the addition of nitrogen to natural covers (Yogaratnam et al., 1984). It was apparently inferior to cowpea for intercropping in mulberry in India (Setua et al., 2006). It is used as a green manure under coconuts in India (Thomas and Shantaram, 1984; Thomas and George, 1990); tobacco in Sumatra, Indonesia (Wiersum, 1983); arecanut palms in India (Sannamarappa, 1987); tea in Indonesia (Wargadipura, 1973); coffee in the Côte d'Ivoire (Lavabre, 1971); cocoa in Cameroon (Rivoire, 1982); rubber in Sri Lanka (Yogaratnam et al., 1977, 1984; Jayasinghe, 1991) and Indonesia (Kostermans et al., 1987); and maize in Thailand (Sukthumrong et al., 1987).

In coconut plantations in Kerala, India, an experiment was conducted using the area around the base of each palm (1.8 m radius) for raising green manure crops (Thomas and George, 1990). M. diplotricha was superior to other species tested in green matter production and nitrogen yield and was most effective in raising soil fertility parameters. The use of M. diplotricha enhanced the yield of coconuts suffering from root wilt disease by over 20%. In Cameroon, M. diplotricha is used as an inter-row shade plant in cocoa where its beneficial effects on soil organic matter and biological activity are reflected in increased growth of young cocoa trees (Rivoire, 1982). In tobacco plantations in Sumatra, use of M. diplotricha as a cover crop reduced the incidence of slime disease (Ralstonia solanacearum) to very low levels, but resulted in a lower quality of tobacco (Wiersum, 1983).

M. diplotricha is also a major source of pollen grains for Italian honeybees (Apis mellifera) in the Philippines (Payawal et al., 1991).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed
  • Forage


  • Agroforestry
  • Erosion control or dune stabilization
  • Land reclamation
  • Shade and shelter
  • Soil conservation
  • Soil improvement

Human food and beverage

  • Honey/honey flora


  • Pesticide

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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M. diplotricha is similar in appearance to its close relative, the weed M. pudica (common sensitive plant), however,the two are easily separated by the following characteristics. M. diplotricha has stems which are angled in cross-section and covered in abundant sharp, recurved prickles along the angles. M. pudica has round stems with only scattered prickles on the internodes. The bipinnate leaves of M. diplotricha have 4-9 pairs of pinnae, whereas those of M. pudica have 1-2 pairs of pinnae. Also, the leaves of M. pudica are much more sensitive than those of M. diplotricha, and when touched, the leaflet pairs of M. pudica rapidly fold together and the rachis folds against the stem.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.


M. diplotricha is a declared weed in Australia and, when found, must be eradicated. Recently a plant was found and eradicated in Western Australia, where the local population, and landowners in particular, have been alerted to the threat of its spread (Wilson, 2004). Similarly in Hong Kong, the public has been requested to report all new potential sightings (Corlett, 2001).

The species is included as a noxious weed on many country lists including the USA. It is on the State of Hawai'i noxious weed list and is a declared noxious weed in Fiji (PIER, 2008). In Australia's Northern Territory it belongs to the class of Declared Weed: C, i.e. not to be introduced to the Territory (Schultz, 2000). It is also a declared plant under Queensland legislation which requires landholders to control the pest on the land under their control (DAF, 2016). In Palau, it was recommended that the species should be excluded from islands where it is not present, and eradicated on islands with small populations (Holm and Michaels, 2003).

In Queensland, Australia, machinery passing through infested areas must be washed before moving on to uninfested areas. Sugar cane contaminated with seeds of M. diplotricha should not be harvested or transported. Some sand pits have been quarantined and records of all sand/gravel movements from these sites must be kept (Anon., 2001). 

Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures

In Queensland, Australia, heavily infested sugarcane fields may need to be quarantined for several years and the crop destroyed to prevent further spread of M. diplotricha seed (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). In specific cases cultivation may be effective to control seedlings (DAF, 2016).

In the Philippines island of Mindanao, the biomass of M. diplotricha was significantly reduced at 30 days after crop emergence when upland rice was treated with 5 t/ha of fresh Gliricidia sepium green manure plus 5 t/ha of fresh Senna spectabilis mulch (MacLean et al., 2003).

Infestations of M. diplotricha can be encouraged by overgrazing (Chadhokar, 1978), thus control may be possible if animals are prevented from grazing in heavily infested areas.

Physical/Mechanical Control

Cultivation, cutting or burning are not generally effective methods of control because plants vigorously regrow from the root crown, and seedling development is rapid and prolific (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). The plant produces copious quantities of seeds which retain their viability in the soil for long periods (Muniappan and Viraktamath, 1993). In any event, waterlogged fields often make mechanical solutions impossible, and seeds can be readily spread on machinery (Holm et al., 1977).

Plants can be uprooted by hand when they are very young (Chadhokar, 1978), and in Indonesia, M. diplotricha in cropping areas is controlled by hand weeding and tillage cultivation (Suryatna and McIntosh, 1982), but the thorns are capable of causing serious sores (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Alabi et al., 2001). In Nigeria, Alabi et al. (2004) compared six weeding regimes in cassava infested with 10,000 plants/ha, concluding that manual removal of the weed using a traditional hand-held hoe to a depth of 3-5 cm, at 4, 7, and 11 weeks after planting consistently gave the highest cassava root yield. After 11 weeks the shrub had no more detrimental effect on cassava. Slashing in pastures and other non-crop situations on a regular basis to prevent seeding is said to provide effective control (DAF, 2016).

Biological Control

Heteropsylla spinulosa was first collected on M. diplotricha in Brazil in 1982. High populations cause stunting and distortion of the leaves and may prevent flowering due to the toxic effects of salivary injections. Approval to release H. spinulosa in Australia as a biological control agent against M. diplotricha was granted in December 1987 after detailed host-specificity testing under quarantine conditions, and the first field releases occurred in north Queensland in January 1988. During the 1988/89 summer, a dramatic reduction in the vigour of M. diplotricha was observed and seed production was suppressed by over 88%. Seedling establishment was reduced and some mature plants killed (Lockett and Ablin, 1990). H. spinulosa is now well established (Willson and Garcia, 1992), has spread significantly (Cullen and Delfosse, 1990), and caused a dramatic reduction in vigour and seed production of M. diplotricha in Australia (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Julien, 1992). It was transferred from Australia to Western Samoa in 1988-89 (Willson and Garcia, 1992) and Papua New Guinea in 1991 (Kuniata, 1994) where it is well established in both places. In Papua New Guinea, H. spinulosa was adversely affected by drought in 1997, but quickly recovered the following year and is now exerting excellent control (Kuniata, 1994). The introduction of parasitic wasps, Psyllaephagus spp., for the biological control of Heteropsylla cubana is a cause for concern (Kuniata and Korowi, 2001).

Scamurius sp. was introduced into Australia from Brazil in 1984, and released into the field at Tully in north Queensland in November 1987 (Anon., 1988). It appeared to establish initially (Anon., 1988) but Julien (1992) records that it failed to establish in the longer term.

Psigidia walkeri, a widespread moth in Brazil which feeds voraciously as a larva on leaves, flower buds, green pods, tender stems and branches of M. diplotricha (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987), was also found to feed on a large number of species, including native Australian Neptunia species, and thus was not released in Australia (Vitelli et al., 2001).

An indigenous stem-spot fungus Corynespora cassiicola, apparently specific to M. diplotricha, has also exercised a degree of control in Queensland where it is now widespread. It causes defoliation and dieback in very hot humid conditions, and if these conditions prevail late in the season, flowering and seed production can be reduced (DAF, 2016).

In the Republic of Palau, Holm and Michaels (2003) noted that biological control agents had been released for M. diplotricha, and recommended that their status should be checked before reintroducing or introducing new ones as appropriate.

Chemical Control

M. diplotricha has been successfully controlled in many situations using foliar applications of herbicides such as picloram, clopyralid and fluroxypyr (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). The amount of chemical needed can be reduced by application onto regrowth following slashing or burning (Chadhokar, 1978). Spraying should be carried out after rain when the plants are actively growing, and a thorough wetting of the foliage is necessary (Chadhokar, 1978; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). These foliar herbicides will also affect other pasture legumes and may need to be applied several times during a season to control seedlings before they set further seed of their own (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Pre-emergence chemicals such as atrazine + 2,4-D mixtures or tebuthiuron can be used in seed beds, but they only remain active for a few months (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992) and sometimes follow-up foliar sprays are required 1-3 months after planting (Mendoza, 1979). Only long-lasting soil sterilants are effective at killing seeds of M. diplotricha (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987). However, chemical controls are frequently considered too expensive to use and are not always effective (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Groves, 1991; Muniappan and Viraktamath, 1993; Kuniata and Nagaraja, 1994). Effective herbicides to control the weed in African cassava fields have yet to be identified (Alabi et al., 2001).

In Australia, a fact sheet provides practical advice to control M. diplotricha in sugar cane (DAF, 2016), with a number of pre- and post-emergence herbicides listed and including guidelines on application rates and timing for optimal application. For instance, in non-grazed infested areas, fluroxypyr can be effective (DAF, 2016).


Although Heteropsylla spinulosa can control M. diplotricha in north Queensland, Australia, in non-crop areas, pasture and non-crop infestations should be assessed for insect abundance between November and April. The effectiveness of insect control can be predicted by the abundant H. spinulosa prior to flowering commencing in early April. When insects are present in large numbers, the growing tips and leaves are curled and stunted, resulting in no or limited flower production. If insect numbers are low then slashing or herbicide application should be carried out before to April for effective control (DAF, 2016). Grazing by domestic stock tends to control this protein rich legume and prevent it dominating pasture vegetation. Plants stunted by H. spinulosa attack are less spiny and more readily grazed by livestock (DAF, 2016).

The best approach to control the weed is usually to combine different methods. Control may include chemical, mechanical, fire and biological methods combined with land management changes and will be site specific. Early infestations should be treated with herbicide or slashed before seeding occurs; once a plant seeds, infestations will re-occur each year for many years as seeds retain their viability (DAF, 2016).


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Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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10/04/2008 Updated by:

Chris Parker, Consultant, UK

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