Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Mimosa pudica
(sensitive plant)



Mimosa pudica (sensitive plant)


  • Last modified
  • 13 December 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Mimosa pudica
  • Preferred Common Name
  • sensitive plant
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. pudica is an annual or biannual sub-woody plant native to South America. It was introduced outside of its native range as an ornamental species, and is still available for sale today. This species is typical...

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M. pudica in the field.
TitleGrowth habit
CaptionM. pudica in the field.
Copyright©S.D. Sawant
M. pudica in the field.
Growth habitM. pudica in the field.©S.D. Sawant
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Leaf©Colin Wilson
TitleStem and spines
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Stem and spines©Colin Wilson
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Spines©Colin Wilson
TitleFlower and leaves
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Flower and leaves©Colin Wilson
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Flowers©Colin Wilson
TitleSeed pods
Copyright©S.D. Sawant
Seed pods©S.D. Sawant
TitleSeed pods
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Seed pods©Colin Wilson
TitleSeed pods
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Seed pods©Colin Wilson


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Mimosa pudica L.

Preferred Common Name

  • sensitive plant

Other Scientific Names

  • Mimosa hispidula Kunth
  • Mimosa pudica var. tetrandra (Willd.) DC.
  • Mimosa pudica var. unijuga (Duchass. & Walp.) Griseb.

International Common Names

  • English: action plant; dead-and-awake; humble plant; live-and-die; mimosa; shame bush; shame plant; touch-me-not
  • Spanish: dormidera; dormilona; espino; hierba púdica; mimosa vergonzosa; mirame y no me toques; zarza; zarza dormolona; zarzón
  • French: honteuse mâle; mimosa commun; mimosa pudique

Local Common Names

  • American Samoa: vao fefe; vao tuitui
  • Bangladesh: lajjabati; lajjabati lata
  • Brazil: dorme-dorme; dormilona; malicia; malicia de mulher; moriviví; ti-marie dormidera; vergonzosa
  • Cambodia: paklab; sampeas
  • Cook Islands: paope ãvare; pikika'a; rãkau 'avare; rãkau 'avarevare; rãkau pikika; rãkau pikika'a; tiare pikika'a; titã pikika'a
  • Cuba: dormidera
  • Dominican Republic: moriviví
  • Fiji: cogadrogadro
  • French Guiana: sensitive; sensitive epineuse
  • French Polynesia: pohe ha'avare; pope ha'avare; teitahakaia; tetahakina
  • Germany: Mimose, Gemeine; Sinnpflanze, Schamhafte
  • Guam: betguen sosa
  • Haiti: honte
  • India: lajja; lajjavathi; lajkuli; lajwanti; mutlamurike; thotta surungi; thottavadi
  • Indonesia: boedjang kajit; daven kagat-kaget; koetjingan; pis kucing; putri malu; si kejut
  • Indonesia/Java: kuchingan; randelik; ri sirepan
  • Italy: erba casta; sensitiva
  • Japan: ojigiso
  • Japan/Ryukyu Archipelago: Ojigi-Sô
  • Malaysia: Keman; Kembang gajah; Kemunchup; malu-malu; Melamu; Puteri malu; Rumput rimau; Semalu
  • Mexico: pinahul-huixtle; quecupatli; vergüenza
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: limemeihr; limemeirpwong (Pohnpei)
  • Nicaragua: dormidera
  • Niue: memege
  • Pakistan: chui mui; lajwanti
  • Palau: mechiuaiuu
  • Philippines: babain; huya-huya; kirom-kirom; makahiya; makahiyang babae; sipug-sipug; torog-torog; tuyag-tuyag
  • Samoa: vao fefe; vao tuitui
  • South Africa: humble plant; kruidjie-roer-my-nie; shame plant; shame weed
  • Sri Lanka: dedinnaru; nidi-kumba; thodda-chinunki; thoddal-vadi; thodda-vadi-kodi
  • Suriname: kruidje-roer-me-niet; sien sien; sjeng sjeng tap joe kotto; sjensjen
  • Taiwan: han hsui tsau; hau hsui tsau
  • Tanzania/Zanzibar: Kifyauwongo
  • Thailand: mai yarap; ra ngap; yaa pan yot
  • Tonga: mateloi
  • United States Virgin Islands: grishi grishi; gritchee; sensitive plant
  • USA/Hawaii: hilahila; pua hilahila; pua-hilahila; sleeping grass
  • Venezuela: dormidera
  • Vietnam: mäc cö

EPPO code

  • MIMPU (Mimosa pudica)

Summary of Invasiveness

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M. pudica is an annual or biannual sub-woody plant native to South America. It was introduced outside of its native range as an ornamental species, and is still available for sale today. This species is typically present in disturbed areas in much of the tropics where it has naturalized. It can be readily and accidentally dispersed thanks to its propagules that stick to mammals’ hairs and human clothing. M. pudica can become extremely weedy in disturbed sites, often forming monotypic ground cover, and is a major weed of many tropical crops. It is classified as invasive in a wide range of countries in Asia and the Pacific and is regarded as an undesirable import in to Florida, USA and Australia (ISSG, 2017). It is also reported as invasive in Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda.

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 pudica

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Mimosa comes from the Greek word mimikos, which means 'to mimic' or 'counterfeit', through the Latin word mimus and suffix -osa, which means 'abounding in', and refers to the many flowers that appear to be a single flower (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). The specific name pudica is from the Latin word that means 'modest' or 'bashful' (Holm et al., 1977).

A number of varieties are recognised. In the neotropics, var. unijuga and var. tetrandra are the most widespread and their distributions somewhat overlap; var. unijuga occurs throughout the Caribbean, central and northern South America whereas var. tetrandra is mainly found in Columbia and Venezuela and its presence in southeast Brazil probably results from introductions. The var. hispida is scattered throughout the Americas and may have arisen from south-western Mexico and then been introduced elsewhere in the neotropics. The var. pastoris is sparsely distributed in and around the Guyanas (Barneby, 1991). In West Africa, Hutchinson et al. (1958) note that two varieties occur in West Africa - var. hispida and var. unijuga. USDA-NCRS (2017) indicates that var. unijuga also occurs in Hawaii, while the form occurring in continental USA and in Puerto Rico is var. pudica.


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The following description is adapted from Cardenas et al. (1972), Ali (1973), Holm et al. (1977), Kostermans et al. (1987), Waterhouse and Norris (1987), Henty and Pritchard (1988) and Parsons and Cuthbertson (1992).

M. pudica is a low-growing, much-branched, prickly, perennial shrub. It grows 15-100 cm tall and may be erect, but more generally has a trailing, sprawling growth habit. The stems are woody at the base, stiff, cylindrical, reddish-brown or purple, pubescent and bear scattered prickles along the internodes. The prickles are 3-4 mm long, compressed, slightly curved, hard and very sharp. The root is long and robust. The leaves are dark green, bipinnate and hairy. The pinnae are in two pairs (sometimes only one pair) arising close together from the tip of the petiole so the arrangement appears palmate. The petiole is about 2.5 cm long and the pinnae are 2.5-5 cm long. There are 12-50 leaflets, each 6-12 mm long, 1.5 mm wide, oblong-linear and pointed, glabrous above but with a hairy margin and lower surface. The stipules are linear-lanceolate and 7-8 mm long. Leaflets and leaves fold up rapidly when touched and also close at night.

Flowers are bright purplish-pink with four prominent stamens and occur in globular or ovoid heads about 9 mm in diameter. The calyx is minute and the corolla is four-lobed and about 2 mm long. Peduncles, 12-25 mm long, arise from leaf axils, are densely hairy and carry prickles. Fruits are borne in clusters in the leaf axils. Each fruit is an oblong, flattened, recurved pod about 8-20 mm long and 2-6 mm wide containing 1-5 seeds. The pod is pointed at the apex, glabrous, edged with bristles and breaks into one-seeded segments which fall away from unbroken marginal sutures when mature. The one-seeded segments bear bristles which aid in dispersal by animals and man. The seed is light-brown, flattened, 2.5-3 mm in diameter and with a finely granular surface. Each plant can produce up to 700 seeds in a year.

Hutchinson et al. (1958) note that three varieties are recognised, two of which occur in West Africa: var. hispida with stipules 8-14 mm long and bracteoles exceeding the grey-puberulous corolla buds, and var. unijuga with stipules 4-8 mm long and bracteoles shorter than the glabrous flower buds.

Plant Type

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Seed propagated


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M. pudica is of tropical American origin, native from southern Mexico to mid-South America and the Caribbean. It is likely that the species has been introduced to some of the extreme parts of the New World range. Also, some of the varieties have been introduced beyond their pre-Columbian distributions (Barneby, 1991), e.g. var. tetrandra is mainly found in Colombia and Venezuela and its presence in southeast Brazil probably results from introductions. The var. hispida may have arisen from south-western Mexico before being introduced elsewhere in the neotropics.

M. pudica has been widely introduced and has become a serious weed throughout the world's tropical regions (Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Its distribution in India is very widespread and it is likely that M. pudica occurs in virtually all states (although not all documented in the table below).

No attempt has been made to list the countries in which M. pudica occurs only in cultivation which would include a wide range of temperate as well as sub-tropical countries around the world.

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


BangladeshWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Akbar, 1968; Holm et al., 1977; Moody, 1989
BhutanPresentIntroducedParker, 1992
British Indian Ocean TerritoryPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017
Brunei DarussalamPresentIntroducedWaterhouse, 1993; PIER, 2017
CambodiaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Waterhouse, 1993
Chagos ArchipelagoPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017
ChinaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2017
-FujianPresentIntroducedChan et al., 2002; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2017
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedChan et al., 2002; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2017
-GuangxiPresentIntroducedChan et al., 2002; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2017
-HainanPresentIntroduced Invasive Chan et al., 2002; Luo et al., 2015; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2017
-Hong KongWidespreadIntroduced1851 Invasive Corlett, 1992
-JiangsuPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2017
-YunnanPresentIntroducedChan et al., 2002; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2017
-ZhejiangPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2017
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)WidespreadIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2017
IndiaWidespreadIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Moody, 1989; ISSG, 2017
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsWidespreadIntroducedSingh et al., 1989
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroducedRamanujam and Khatija, 1991; Prabhakar et al., 2014
-AssamPresentIntroducedSingha and Sharma, 2013
-BiharPresentIntroducedSah and Pathak, 1988
-GoaPresentIntroducedMuniappan and Viraktamath, 1993
-GujaratPresentIntroducedMuniappan and Viraktamath, 1993
-JharkhandPresentIntroducedTabassum Afshan, 2011
-KarnatakaWidespreadIntroducedChalla et al., 1991; Muniappan and Viraktamath, 1993
-KeralaPresentIntroduced Invasive Muniappan and Viraktamath, 1993; ISSG, 2017
-MaharashtraPresentIntroducedMuniappan and Viraktamath, 1993
-NagalandPresentIntroduced Invasive Laskar et al., 2005
-OdishaPresentIntroducedDebashisha et al., 2012
-RajasthanPresentIntroduced Invasive Gaur et al., 2011; ISSG, 2017
-SikkimPresentIntroducedGrierson and Long, 1987
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedMuniappan and Viraktamath, 1993
-TripuraPresentIntroducedJoyeeta et al., 2013
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedSingh et al., 2015
-West BengalPresentIntroducedDas et al., 2010
IndonesiaWidespreadIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Moody, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993
-Irian JayaPresentIntroducedKostermans et al., 1987
-JavaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1977
-MoluccasPresentIntroducedKostermans et al., 1987
-Nusa TenggaraPresentIntroducedKostermans et al., 1987; Siregar et al., 1990
-SulawesiPresentIntroducedKostermans et al., 1987
-SumatraPresentIntroducedKostermans et al., 1987
JapanPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017Also Bonin (Ogasawara) islands
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoWidespreadIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2017
LaosWidespreadIntroducedMoody, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993
MalaysiaWidespreadIntroducedMoody, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993
-Peninsular MalaysiaWidespreadIntroducedLee, 1976; Holm et al., 1977; Baki and Prakash, 1994
-SabahPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1977
-SarawakPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1977
MaldivesPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017
MyanmarPresentIntroducedWaterhouse, 1993
NepalWidespreadIntroducedMoody, 1989
PakistanWidespreadIntroducedAli, 1973
PhilippinesWidespreadIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Moody, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993
SingaporeWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse, 1993; AVA, 2001; PIER, 2017
Sri LankaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Fairchild, 1902; Salgado, 1972; Holm et al., 1977; Moody, 1989
TaiwanWidespreadIntroduced1645 Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Chang et al., 1982; Wu et al., 2003
ThailandWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Moody, 1989; Noda et al., 1994
VietnamWidespreadIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Moody, 1989; Waterhouse, 1993


AldabraPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017
BurundiPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017
CameroonWidespreadIntroducedGaullier, 1986; Ngouajio and Daelemans, 1993
ComorosWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Vos, 2004
GambiaPresentIntroducedHutchinson and Dalziel, 1958
GhanaPresentIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1977
KenyaPresentIntroduced Invasive BioNET-EAFRINET, 2017
MadagascarWidespreadIntroducedearly 1900s Invasive Fishpool and Evans, 2001; Binggeli, 2003
MalawiPresentIntroduced Invasive Brenan, 1970; Witt and Luke, 2017
MauritiusWidespreadIntroducedHolm et al., 1977; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
NigeriaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1977
RéunionPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017
SenegalPresentIntroducedHutchinson and Dalziel, 1954
Sierra LeonePresentIntroducedHutchinson and Dalziel, 1954
South AfricaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Wells et al., 1986
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Legère, 2003; BioNET-EAFRINET, 2017
UgandaPresentIntroduced Invasive BioNET-EAFRINET, 2017
ZimbabweWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Henderson, 2003

North America

MexicoWidespreadNative Invasive Holm et al., 1977
USAPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1977
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-HawaiiWidespreadIntroducedParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; PIER, 2017; USDA-NRCS, 2017
-MarylandPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017
-PennsylvaniaPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Moldenke, 1946
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2017

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaWidespreadNative Invasive Loveless, 1960
BarbadosPresentNativeHolm et al., 1977
BelizeWidespreadNative Not invasive Kellman, 1973
Costa RicaWidespreadNativeHolm et al., 1977; Barneby, 1991
CubaWidespreadNative Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Perez et al., 1988
Dominican RepublicPresentNativeHolm et al., 1977
El SalvadorPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
Greater AntillesPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
GuadeloupeWidespreadNativeTorregrossa, 1983
GuatemalaPresentNativeHolm et al., 1977
HaitiPresentNativeAnon., 2004
HondurasPresentNativeHolm et al., 1977
JamaicaWidespreadNative Invasive Asprey and Robbins, 1953; Holm et al., 1977; Williams and Mansingh, 1993
Lesser AntillesPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979Occurring 'in all islands'
NicaraguaWidespreadNativeTaylor, 1963; Holm et al., 1977
PanamaWidespreadNativePinzon et al., 1989
Puerto RicoWidespreadNativeGonzalez-Ibanez, 1977; Holm et al., 1977; USDA-NRCS, 2017
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentNativeAlexander, 1901
Trinidad and TobagoWidespreadNative Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987
United States Virgin IslandsPresentNativeUSDA-NRCS, 2017

South America

BoliviaPresentNativeHolm et al., 1977
BrazilPresentNativeHolm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987
-AmapaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-AmazonasWidespreadNativeLorenzi, 1982; Dias-Filho, 1990
-BahiaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-CearaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Espirito SantoPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-GoiasPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-MaranhaoPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Mato GrossoPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Minas GeraisPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-ParaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-ParanaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-PiauiPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Rio de JaneiroPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-RoraimaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Santa CatarinaPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
-Sao PauloPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
ColombiaWidespreadNativeHolm et al., 1977; Barneby, 1991
EcuadorPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017
French GuianaWidespreadNative Invasive Barneby, 1991; Reynaud and Thioulouse, 2000; Magda et al., 2006
GuyanaPresentNativeBarneby, 1991
PeruWidespreadNative Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Ordonez and Reyes, 1984
SurinamePresentNativeBarneby, 1991
VenezuelaPresentNativeHolm et al., 1977


American SamoaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017
AustraliaPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017
-Australian Northern TerritoryRestricted distributionIntroducedParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; PIER, 2017
-New South WalesRestricted distributionIntroducedParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-QueenslandWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; PIER, 2017
Cook IslandsWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Purea, 1985; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017Aitutaki, ‘Atiu, Mangaia, Ma’uke, Mit’aro, Palmerston, Raratonga
FijiWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Patel, 1972; Holm et al., 1977; Mandal, 1977; PIER, 2017Lakemba, Rotruma, Taveuni, Vanua Levu, Vanua Mbalavu, Viti Levu
French PolynesiaWidespreadIntroduced1845 Invasive Florence et al., 1983; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017Hiva Oa, Huahinew, Mangareva, Maupiti, Moorea, Mopelia, Raiatea, Raro’ia. Taha’a, Tahiti, Makatea, Nuku Hiva, Tahuata, Tikehau, Rimatara, Rurutu, Tubuai, Ua Haku, Ua Pou
GuamWidespreadIntroduced Invasive McConnell and Muniappan, 1991
KiribatiPIER, 2017Tungaru
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2017Kwajalein
Micronesia, Federated states ofPresentIntroduced Invasive Englberger, 2009Invasive on Pohnpei. 'Present on most islands in all Micronesian countries'
NauruPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2017New Caledonia, Ile Grande Terre, Ile des Pins
New CaledoniaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017New Caledonia Islands, Ile Grande Terre, Ile des Pins
NiueWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2017Rota, Saipan, Tinian
PalauPresentIntroducedPIER, 2017Angaur, Babelbdaob, Koror, Malakal, Ngerkebesang
Papua New GuineaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1977; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; PIER, 2017
SamoaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Reynolds, 1981; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017
Solomon IslandsWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Steel and Whiteman, 1980; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017Guadalcanal, Solomon
TokelauWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017
TongaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017
VanuatuWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017
Wallis and Futuna IslandsWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; PIER, 2017

History of Introduction and Spread

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Being widely kept as a curiosity, M. pudica was introduced to many parts of the Old World tropics and cultivated in greenhouses in temperate regions.

The history of its introduction is obscure, but in most of the tropics it must have taken place during the 1800s. However, the plant is known to have been spread in Asia from mission to mission by Jesuit fathers (Barneby, 1991), thus it was introduced prior to 1800. Wu et al. (2003) state that it was introduced to Taiwan as early 1645. In Hong Kong, it was reported as being in cultivation in 1857, but became a rampant weed soon after that. It reached Samoa by 1839 and Tonga in 1940 (Whistler, 1983). By the late 1800s it was considered a 'pest' in Thailand (Culbertson, 1894). By 1900 it had become a troublesome weed in Sri Lanka, in coconut groves and tea plantations in particular (Fairchild, 1902).

Earliest records in GBIF (2017) include 1841 in Madagascar, 1912 in Queensland, Australia, 1919 in South Africa, 1923 in Comoros, 1924 in New Zealand, 1933 in Ghana, 1936 in Malaysia, 1960 in Nigeria and in 1997 in Bangladesh.

It is believed that the introduced material is essentially uniform over extensive areas. In the Philippines and southern Africa all material appears to belong to var. hispida, rare in its native range, whereas in Hawaii it reflects the characteristics of var. unijuga (Barneby, 1991; Henderson, 2003). In Australia it is now so well established it is not a candidate for eradication. In the Northern Territory it is declared a noxious weed requiring its growth and spread to be controlled (Miller, 2003). In Hong Kong, it is still used as an ornamental (Chan et al., 2002).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Bangladesh 1997 Yes No GBIF (2017)
Comoros 1923 Yes No GBIF (2017)
Ghana 1933 Yes No GBIF (2017)
Hong Kong 1857 Yes No Wu et al. (2003)
Madagascar 1841 Yes No GBIF (2017)
Malaysia 1936 Yes No GBIF (2017)
New Zealand 1924 Yes No GBIF (2017)
Niger 1960 Yes No GBIF (2017)
Queensland 1912 Yes No GBIF (2017)
Samoa 1839 Yes No Whistler (1983)
South Africa 1919 Yes No GBIF (2017)
Sri Lanka Late 1800s Yes No Fairchild (1902)
Taiwan 1645 Yes No Wu et al. (2003)
Thailand Late 1800s Yes No Culbertson (1894)
Tonga 1840 Yes No Whistler (1983)

Risk of Introduction

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As a botanical curiosity and attractive plant to grow, M. pudica will continue to be available from internet sources and is certain to be purchased and introduced to further sites. The dispersal mechanism of the species, i.e. propagules readily adhering to animals and human clothing, means that both long distance dispersal by humans and secondary introductions are always a possibility unless strict quarantine measures are implemented.


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Although it is often grown as an annual ornamental, M. pudica grows as a perennial in the tropical or subtropical regions of the world, in a wide range of soils, from sea level up to an elevation of about 1300 m, in crops, pastures, lawns, roadsides, gardens, disturbed soils and waste places (Holm et al., 1977; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Typically, M. pudica is found in heavily disturbed areas (e.g. volcanoes, mining sites) or disturbed forests, but disappears in the early stages of vegetation succession (Uphof, 1924; Swaine and Hall, 1983). It tolerates full sun and partial shade (Kostermans et al., 1987). It is most competitive in poorer, but moist, soils, and full sunlight.

In Belize, M. pudica is widespread in pastures (37 out of 78 sample sites) but of low local abundance. It is a main component of the weed community of farmland, but is not associated with crop fields (Kellman, 1973). In other parts of Central America it may be found in grassland with a scattered shrub layer, or in salt meadows and savanna vegetation near Nicaragua's Pacific coast (Taylor, 1963). It is also readily found in disturbed areas, such as along railways, for instance in the Mexican Chiapas region (Matuda, 1950).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Secondary/tolerated 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 Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal dunes Present, no further details
Irrigation channels Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

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

Attempts to select spineless types for use in pastures have failed because homozygosity has not been achieved and the plants revert to the spiny form. The existence of four accepted varieties indicates significant genetic variation.

Reproductive Biology

The inflorescence of M. pudica is a head of small flowers that only lasts half a day, typically blooming from 8.00 am to noon. Food is present in the form of pollen and solitary bees have been observed to forage for pollen (Percival, 1974). According to Raw (1976) in Jamaica, the pollen of M. pudica was the most common in samples from the bees Exomalopsis globosa and E. similis. Although, they are accessible to all pollinators they only appear to be visited by Apidae (Leppik, 1956). In a lowland mixed-dipterocarp forest in Sabah, Malaysia, the pollen composition of stingless bee (Trigona collina) pellets contained 3.7% M. pudica type pollen (Eltz, 2001). In French Guiana, M. pudica reproductive success is negatively affected by the invasive Africanised honeybee (Apis mellifera scutella). Fruit set was reduced by 6% and seed set declined by 26% when these honey bees represented 74% of the flower visitors as compared to forest populations almost exclusively visited by native bees (Butz Huryn, 1997). In Thailand, M. pudica was the main pollen source for the three bee species, Apis cerana, A. dorsata and A. florea (Suwannapong et al., 2013). Other publications suggest a wide range of bees can be involved in pollination of. M. pudica.

Reproduction is by seeds only and each plant may produce upwards of 700 seeds. The bristled seed segments can be readily carried on animal fur or on clothing. Some seeds germinate rapidly in moist soil, but others may remain dormant and viable in the soil for many years. Dormancy is associated with an impermeable seed coat and is overcome by scarification. Chauhan and Johnson (2009) confirmed the success of scarification by boiling water, physical scarification, or soaking in sulphuric acid, all resulting in over 80% germination at alternating temperatures of 20/ 30°C or at 25/35°C, in light or in darkness, with somewhat lower germination at 15/20°C. Dormancy was also broken by brief exposure of dry seeds to a temperature of 150°C, supporting the belief that germination is stimulated after fire. Germination was reduced by high levels of salinity but was still 40% at 200 mmol L-1 NaCl. Burial to 2 cm depth did not reduce germination but there was some reduction at deeper levels and none at 8 cm.

After 19 years of storage, 2% of the seeds still germinated (Holm et al., 1977). In Belize, Kellman (1978) observed a seedbank with up to 400 seeds/m² in 10% of investigated pastures.

Physiology and Phenology

M. pudica is generally perennial in warmer climates, commonly living for at least two years, although it is often cultivated as an annual in temperate areas. The plant grows rapidly and stems branch profusely. Flowering commences about three months after germination, and can occur throughout the year in tropical countries. Investigations in the lowland forests of Costa Rica, a region with a dry season spanning from mid-November to mid-May, showed that leaf flushing occurred between May and November. Flowering lasted from March to November and mature fruits were observed between October and December, and between February and April (Opler et al., 1980). In the Philippines the plants flower all year round (Holm et al., 1977). In Hong Kong, flowering occurs between March and October and fruiting lasts from May to November (Chan et al., 2002).

Perhaps its most striking characteristic is the rapid collapse of its leaves in response to stimulation. Stimulating agents that can induce rapid leaf movements include shock and shaking, localised applied pressure, sudden temperature changes, increase in hydrostatic pressure, increase in light intensity, X-rays, electrical stimulation, chemical agents and physical injuries (Roblin, 1979). Fairchild (1902) reported that as a train advanced along a railway line embankment, he observed the quick falling of the leaves like the progress of a roller on the sea coast. The leaflets close and the petiole falls within a couple of seconds of stimulation, while the recovery takes an hour or more (Charnley et al., 1975), although Hitchcock (1893) reported that in Jamaica the leaves recovered from a shock in 9-11 minutes. When one part of the plant receives sufficient stimulation, a 'wave' of some kind of excitation spreads over the plant with a velocity of up to 10 mm/s, evident as movements of parts of the plant. The primary mode of conductance of the excitation is thought to be electrical (Tinz-Fuchtmeier and Gradmann, 1990). The plant is able to adapt to constant stimulation, such as during rainfall, by reopening its leaves (Applewhite, 1972). Kanzawa et al (2006) propose that the phosphorylation status of actin at tyrosine residues affects the dynamic reorganization of actin filaments and causes the seismonastic movement. Volkov et al. (2010, 2013 and 2014) discuss the detailed mechanism of seismonastic movements in M. pudica and demonstrate that a voltage gated K+ channel in the excitable tissue of plants has properties of a memristor.

Motor organs or 'pulvini' form true articulations between different parts of the plant. The primary pulvinus is the joint between the stem and the whole leaf, the secondary pulvini allow the pinnae to move at the tip of the petiole, and the tertiary pulvini form the junctions of the pinnules with the rachises (Roblin, 1979). In a detailed anatomic study Chen et al. (2013) show that reticulate lacunae in the common petiole of M. pudica are responsible for its strong nastic movement. The main sensitivity position lies at the base of the common petiole, where the lower cortex is more sensitive than the upper cortex, and the ordinal sensitivity positions are rachis and leaflets. Song et al. (2014) show that the key factors for the flexible movements by the pulvinus are: the bendable xylem bundle, expandable/shrinkable epidermis, tiny wrinkles for surface modification, and a xylem vessel network for efficient water transport.

The circadian leaf movement, controlled by a biological clock, is initiated by the regulated balance of leaf opening and closing substances, and has been reported in detail by Ueda and Yamamura (2000). The leaves ‘close’ at night, and after normal leaf closure in the evening, the plants remain unresponsive to light for a period of several hours, but regain their sensitivity early the following morning (Burkholder and Pratt, 1936). The photosynthetic rate of M. pudica is reduced by up to 40% when leaves are collapsed (Hoddinott, 1977). Hence recovery rates tend to be quicker under low light, to minimise the reduction of photosynthesis, compared with high light conditions when that reduction is less serious (Jensen et al., 2011).

Mano et al. (2014) describe the development of an Agrobacterium-mediated stable transformation method for M. pudica providing an effective genetic tool for studying genes involved in its movements.

A further curiosity of M. pudica is the emission of sulphur-containing substances including carbon disulphide from the roots when they are disturbed, resulting in detectable odour (Musah et al., 2016). It is assumed that this response has a deterrent function against predators.


M. pudica is a nitrogen-fixing legume and possesses root nodules housing Rhizobium and other bacteria (Allen and Allen, 1981). In Brazil, Baraúna et al. (2016) found the local species of Rhizobium to be closely related to R. mesoamericanum but determined it as a new species R. altiplani. In French Guiana, Mishra et al. (2012) found Burkholderia tuberum and B. phymatum to be the main symbionts, In southern China, the genera Cupriavidus and Burkholderia were found to be the main symbionts (Liu et al., 2012). In Taiwan, B. phymatum was the most competitive symbiont, followed by B. tuberum (Melkonian et al., 2014). In South Africa, however, M. pudica failed to nodulate with the local B. tuberum and B. phymatum (Lemaire et al., 2016). Ferreira et al. (2012; 2013) show that Cupriovidus necator is an effective symbiont even in the presence of toxic heavy metals, zinc, cadmium, copper and lead.

Environmental Requirements

M. pudica is usually abundant in humid tropic open lowland areas, but it also occurs at higher elevations. In the Comoros, it reaches an altitude of 800 m or more (Ibrahim, 2003).  It is favoured by annual rainfall from 1000 mm to an estimated 5000 mm.The plant is usually associated with wetter grounds and can grow on a wide variety of soils, including those of low fertility. It is typically light demanding but appears to be able to tolerate a certain degree of shading.


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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 Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Tolerated < 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

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 duration07number 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
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Atta colombica Herbivore Leaves
Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris Pathogen
Cercospora pudicae Pathogen
Eurema lisa Herbivore
Eurema nise Herbivore
Hemiargus hanno filenus Herbivore Seeds Perez et al., 1988
Meloidogyne Predator/parasite Roots Izquierdo et al., 1987
Passalora mimosae Pathogen Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

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In Fiji, M. pudica is attacked by four widely polyphagous scale insects and the polyphagous cluster caterpillar (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987). Preliminary surveys in Brazil and Trinidad have found a number of mainly polyphagous insects attacking the plant (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987). Waterhouse (1994) lists the natural enemies of M. pudica known at that time.

In Panama, M. pudica is palatable to the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica (Rockwood, 1976). It is a larval food plant of the butterflies Eurema nise and E. lisa (Percival, 1974). Initial tests in Cuba with larvae of the butterfly Hemiargus hanno filenus indicate that it feeds readily on M. pudica seeds, is particularly active in spring when most seed is produced, and appears to be host-specific (Perez et al., 1988). Also in Cuba, M. pudica acts as an alternative host of a pest nematode Meloidogyne sp. in coffee plantations, necessitating control of the weed (Izquierdo et al., 1987).

A leaf spot fungus, Cercosporapudicae, which is associated with leaf scorching and blackening was described from Puerto Rico, and has since been shown to be widespread and is common in India (Evans, 1987).

A begomovirus closely realated to Ageratum yellow-vein virus has been observed causing small yellow leaves in Rajhastan, India (Gaur et al., 2011). The phytoplasma Candidatus Phytoplasma asteris has also been identified on M. pudica  in Indonesia (Boa et al., 2010).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

Seed of M. pudica could be transported by running water or during flood events.

Vector Transmission

Propagules readily stick to mammals' fur and human clothing and thus may be dispersed over large distances.

Intentional Introduction

Original introductions of M. pudica occurred for reasons of being an ornamental plant and as a botanical curiosity due to the sensitive, folding foliage.

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Aircraft Yes Yes
Germplasm Yes Yes
Livestock Yes
Machinery and equipment Yes
Soil, sand and gravel Yes

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production Negative
Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health Negative
Livestock production Negative
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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M. pudica is a serious pest of crops and pastures throughout the tropics and is most commonly and widely reported as a weed of pastures. It causes problems in Panama (Pinzon et al., 1989), Puerto Rico (Gonzales-Ibanez, 1977), the Caribbean (Hammerton, 1981), the Brazilian Amazon (Dias-Filho, 1990), the Peruvian Amazon (Ordonez and Reyes, 1984), Sri Lanka (Fairchild, 1902), Fiji (Partridge, 1986), Indonesia (Kostermans et al., 1987), Papua New Guinea (Henty and Pritchard, 1988) and the Solomon Islands (Steel and Whiteman, 1980). It also causes serious problems in lawns on Guam (McConnell and Muniappan, 1991). Holm et al. (1979) list M. pudica as a ‘serious’ or ‘principal’ weed in Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Fiji, India, Peru, Thailand and Trinidad. It was regarded by Holm et al. (1977) as one of the world's 76 worst weeds, although Waterhouse and Norris (1987) consider it to be somewhat less of a problem than M. invisa. It is regarded as being among the 10 worst weeds in French Polynesia, Guam, the Solomon Islands and Tonga (Waterhouse, 1985). The plant can survive mowing and when dead can be a fire hazard (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987). Hand weeding is a hazardous practice because prickles can break off in the skin and cause serious septic sores (Holm et al., 1977; Kostermans et al., 1987; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987).

In direct-sown upland rice in Kerala, India, infestations of M. pudica can lead to a 10-70% reduction in grain yield (Joseph and Bridgit, 1993). It can be a co-dominant weed in translated rice (Dahiphale et al., 2015) and is an important weed in all types of rice crop in south-eastern Asia and the Pacific. It is reported to cause losses in Bangladesh, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam (Patel, 1972; Holm et al., 1977; Mandal, 1977; Kostermans et al., 1987; Moody, 1989; Joseph and Bridgit, 1993). M. pudica is considered a serious weed in field crops such as sugarcane in Mexico and Taiwan (Holm et al., 1977), sorghum and maize in Malaysia and Indonesia (Holm et al., 1977), soyabeans in the Philippines (Holm et al., 1977) and in Nagaland, India (Khesi and Longkumer, 2015) and is also a problem in tomatoes, pineapples and cotton (Lee Soo Ann, 1976; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987).

Due to its ability to grow in partial shade, it is also a serious weed in forest and plantation crops such as: rubber in Mexico, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia (Holm et al., 1977); tea in Bangladesh (Akbar, 1968), southern India (Haridas and Sharma, 1973), Sri Lanka (Fairchild, 1902), and Indonesia (Holm et al., 1977); coconuts in Papua New Guinea (Henty and Pritchard, 1988), Indonesia (Kostermans et al., 1987) and Sri Lanka (Fairchild, 1902; Salgado, 1972); coffee in Cuba (Izquierdo et al., 1987); oil palms in Cameroon (Gaullier, 1986); and bananas, papaya and citrus (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987). In India, M. pudica is a predominant weed in mango nursery beds (Challa, 1984) and in southern Sumatra, Indonesia it is a weed in Acacia mangium plantations (Nazif, 1993). It is among the most important weeds of cassava in Brazil (Miléo et al., 2016).

In the Comoros the species hinders crop productivity and increases labour due to the need to weed the plant from crops. However, it is used by agriculturalists, like some other introduced weeds, as straw (Vos, 2004).

Environmental Impact

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When dry, thickets of M. pudica may be a fire hazard and are said to prevent the regeneration of other species (PIER, 2017). In meadows it is reported "to kill out all other plants" (Fairchild, 1902). The impact of this plant on biodiversity appears to be as yet rather limited. In the Comoros, however, the species is viewed as being a real threat to the native flora (Ibrahim, 2003). A study by Wang et al. (2015) showed that soil organic matter, pH, total N, P, and K, available N contents were higher in soils heavily invaded by M. pudica favouring its further invasion.

Social Impact

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Due to its sensitive leaves, M. pudica always has been a major horticultural curiosity, both in the tropics and in temperate glasshouses. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant in South Africa (Wells et al., 1986), Pakistan (Ali, 1973) and Hong Kong (Chan et al., 2002) and many other sub-tropical and temperate countries. However, when it spreads in tropical regions it is generally viewed as having a negative impact. In the Comoros, because of its curved spines, it causes serious problems to people clearing scrub dominated by this plant (Ibrahim, 2003).

M. pudica is grazed by cattle in Fiji, Australia, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and India (Reynolds, 1981; Watson and Whiteman, 1981; Smith and Whiteman, 1985; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987; Sah and Pathak, 1988). However, seeds, leaves and other parts of M. pudica contain the non-protein amino acid mimosine (beta(N)[3 hydroxy-4 pyridone] alpha-amino propionic acid), which rumen microbes convert into a toxic compound that interferes seriously with thyroid gland function and causes hair loss and other toxic effects, particularly to ruminants, rats, mice, pigs and poultry (Ebuenga et al., 1979; Waterhouse and Norris, 1987). It is suspected of poisoning cattle in Papua New Guinea, especially when cut and dried (Henty and Pritchard, 1988) and has caused stunted growth in chickens in Indonesia (Kostermans et al., 1987). Experimental transfer of other rumen bacteria can convert stock into animals not harmed by mimosine.

Partridge (1986) reported that M. pudica tended to reduce available feed for cattle in Fiji and subsequent cattle growth rates because the cattle tended to avoid the thorny stems and only nibble the growing tips. Gaullier (1986) considered it to be only moderately palatable to cattle in Cameroon. In mixed pastures in the Solomon Islands, M. pudica and M. invisa were both grazed at moderate stocking rates and were maintained as small and manageable plants. At higher stocking rates bare areas of ground were induced, allowing invasion of woody weeds. At lower rates, steers were not forced to graze species of Mimosa and large impenetrable thickets developed (Smith and Whiteman, 1985). Sheep are very fond of wild legumes, especially M. pudica, which invade coconut groves in Vanuatu (Simonnet, 1990), and goats fulfil the same role in Malaysia (Murken and Mukherjee, 1988).

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
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Host damage
  • Modification of fire regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid growth
  • Produces spines, thorns or burrs
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control


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Social Services

The roots yield about 19% tannin (Allen and Allen, 1981) and the plant is used in the production of coating materials (Sah and Pathak, 1988).

In Guadeloupe, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Brazil, India, Malaysia and the Philippines, M. pudica is an important source of pollen grains for Italian honeybees (Apis mellifera) and other bees (Torregrossa, 1983; Bootsma et al., 1988; Diaz-Millen and Moncada, 1988; Maishihah and Kiew, 1989; Payawal et al., 1991; Ramanujam and Khatija, 1991;Jesus et al., 2015) In Brazil  it is a particularly important honey plant and may even produce mono-floral honeys (Barth, 2004).

M. pudica has been used extensively for its medicinal purposes and is used in many countries including Pakistan (Ali, 1973) and India (Sah and Pathak, 1988; Balakrishnan et al., 2006). The seeds have emetic properties (Allen and Allen, 1981) and in the West Indies, the plant is used as a folk antihelminthic medicine (Williams and Mansingh, 1993), during childbirth and for infertility (Lans, 2007). Stems, leaves and roots are used to treat insomnia, spasms and convulsions in Vanuatu (Englert et al., 1994), and Chan et al. (2002) reported that it is used as a medicinal plant in Hong Kong. Flavonoids isolated from M. pudica are shown to have potent antioxidant and immunomodulatory activities (Jose et al., 2014; Ganesh Patro et al., 2016).The latter authors report its use in India for treatment of convulsions, alopecia, diarrhoea, dysentery, insomnia, tumour, wound healing, snake bite, etc., In a comprehensive review, Gulzar et al. (2016) report on its use in Pakistan for treatments of cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, obesity, and urinary infections. They comment that M. pudica is famous for its anticancer alkaloid, mimosine, along with valuable secondary metabolites like tannins, steroids, flavonoids, triterpenes, and glycosylflavones. Its wide array of pharmacological properties include antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, antinociceptive, anticonvulsant, antidepressant, antidiarrheal, hypolipidemic activities, diuretic, antiparasitic, antimalarial, and hypoglycemic effects. Another review, by Lubna et al. (2011) refers to anti-diabetic, antitoxin, antihepatotoxin, antioxidant and wound healing activities, and further uses are documented by Duke (2017). In respect to anti-cancer effects, Jose et al. (2016) identified a derivative of myricetin as the active substance.

Baghel et al. (2013) confirm significant diuretic activity at doses of 100 and 200 mg kg-1 b.wt., while Chintha Himabindu et al. (2014) and Elango et al. (2012) confirm potential for treatment of gastric ulcers in rats. Naveen et al. (2014) report anticonvulsant activity in rats suggesting use in epilepsy. Other uses for which there are reports of supporting studies include as an antidiabetic (Tunna et al., 2015), for hypnosis (Ashwaghosh et al., 2012), for leprosy (Solanki, 2015), against necrotising pancreatitis (Jagdeep et al., 2016), as an anti-inflammatory (Rathore et al., 2012), for neuroprotective effect against D-galactose induced Alzheimer's model (Ittiyavirah and Pullachol, 2014), for wound-healing (Goli Venkateshwarlu et al., 2011), anti-mumps virus (Jeevan Malayan et al., 2013); for insect and snake bites (Singh et al., 2015). Most reports are for extracts of the shoots, but Kokane et al. (2009) report wound-healing effects from the roots and Joseph et al. (2013) review other possible uses of root extracts.

Nghonjuyi et al. (2016) report the use of M. pudica in Cameroonian ethnoveterinary medicine as a panacea, and specifically for gastrointestinal disorders as well as an anthelmintic and antibacterial. They report on its lack of adverse side effects on chicks. 

Tomar et al. (2014) and Iyothi and Rao (2011) confirm antibacterial activity against e.g. Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus vulgaris, Bacillus subtilis and Enterococcus faecalis. Jeyaseelan et al. (2012) also report high activity against Staphylococcus aureus. Genest et al. (2008) report activity against Bacillus cereus, B. subtilis, Escherichia coli, ampicillin-resistant Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Anti-fungal activity is recorded against Candida albicans by Kakad et al. (2015), against Alternaria species by Srivastava et al. (2012), Colletotrichum gleosporioides (Bai et al., 2015), while the amino acid mimosine, extracted from M. pudica has been shown to inhibit mycelial growth, conidial germination and uredospore germination of various plant pathogens (Ebuenga et al., 1979).

Extracts of the plant are known to have moderate insecticidal effects (Williams and Mansingh, 1993). Ahad et al. (2015) report useful activity against the bruchid Callosobruchus chinensis. Similarly useful activity has been shown against the nymphs of brown plant hopper (BPH), Nilapavata lugens (Zhong et al., 2011)

In India it has been shown that feeding cows with M. pudica for five days can improve the fertility of the animal by expelling the placenta early.

In spite of this very wide range of potential uses, it is far from certain that any have been adopted into main-stream use.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Forage
  • Invertebrate food


  • Amenity
  • Soil improvement


  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Ornamental
  • Research model

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore
  • Veterinary


  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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M. pudica can be readily distinguished from most other plants by the rapid movements of its leaves and leaflets when they are touched. However, this test is of no use in distinguishing M. pudica from M. invisa [M. diplotricha], which is also sensitive to touch and also considered one of the world's worst weeds occurring  throughout the world's tropical regions (Holm et al., 1977). However, M. diplotricha has stems which are conspicuously four-angled, with numerous recurved prickles occurring along the angles of the stems. M. pudica, in contrast, has round stems with only occasional pairs of prickles. Where the bipinnate leaves of M. pudica generally have one or two pairs of pinnae, the leaves of M. diplotricha have four to nine pairs of pinnae.

M. pudica is also quite similar to M. polydactyla but has a simpler leaf formula, broader stipules and longer filaments, and is distinguishable from the Mexican M. affinis only by a difference in legume setae (Barneby, 1991). M. pudica is a variable species and Barneby (1991) recognised four varieties that can only be keyed using flowering material. These are vars. unijuga, tetrandra, pastoris and hispida. The var. pudica refers to the single sterile Linnaean herbarium specimen that cannot be positively identified (Barneby, 1991). Dourado et al. (2013) provide a useful key to the 11 species occurring in Bahia state, Brazil.

Prevention and Control

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Cultural Control and Sanitary Methods

M. pudica in pastures can be encouraged by overgrazing by cattle (Chadhokar, 1978), and insufficient grazing pressure can also lead to an increase in the weed, as the animals are not forced to eat it (Smith and Whiteman, 1985). When M. pudica is present under plantation crops, it can be kept in check by grazing with sheep (Simonnet, 1990) or goats (Salgado, 1972) but seeds can be readily transported by animals on their fur (Holm et al., 1977). 

M. pudica is among the weeds growing amongst ginger which can be controlled by the application of a layer of dried coconut leaves (Thankamani et al., 2016). Weeds including M. pudica were found to be best suppressed by alternate rows of soyabean and maize, compared with sole cropping with either separately (Kithan and Longkumer, 2014).

Physical/Mechanical Control

Very young plants can be uprooted by hand (Chadhokar, 1978), but older plants have woody stems and are difficult to pull up by hand (McConnell and Muniappan, 1991). Cuts caused by the sharp prickles when hand weeding can result in serious septic sores (Waterhouse and Norris, 1987). Hand weeding and hoeing are the practices commonly followed for weed control in upland rice areas in Kerala, India (Joseph and Bridgit, 1993).

Biological Control

Biological control projects against the related M. invisa [M. diplotricha] (Kuniata, 1994) and M. pigra (Wilson et al., 1996) have met with some success, and the prospects for similar success against M. pudica would seem to be good. M. pudica was susceptible and severely damaged by Fusarium pallidoroseum isolated from diseased M. diplotricha in the Philippines (Baars, 2000). Neurostrota gunniella (Gracillariidae) was introduced into Australia from Mexico in 1986 for the biological control of M. pigra. It bred readily on M. pigra and to a much lesser extent on M. pudica (Forno et al., 2000). Larvae of the moth Psigida walkeri tested as a biological control agent of M. diplotricha was found to feed on a number of species, including M. pudica which suffered from severe defoliation, and thus was not released in Australia (Vitelli, 2001).

Waterhouse (1994) reviewed the range of possible biological control agents for M. pudica but at that time no agents were considered worthy of development. Since then a number of publications have emphasised the need for a biocontrol agent for M. pudica including Day (2013) who indicated the need in the Pacific islands including Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea but lists no candidate organisms at that time.

Chemical Control

Due to difficulties with hand weeding, chemical control is the most frequently used method of treating infestations of M. pudica. Foliar sprays of chemicals such as glyphosate are commonly used (Akbar, 1968; Wong, 1975; Mandal, 1977; Steel and Whiteman, 1980; Chang et al., 1982; Kostermans et al., 1987; Henty and Pritchard, 1988; Challa et al., 1991; Nazif, 1993; Das et al., 2010) but wetting of the foliage must be thorough (Chadhokar, 1978; Henty and Pritchard, 1988). The amount of chemical used can be reduced by application to regrowth following slashing or burning (Chadhokar, 1978). Glyphosate can also be mixed at a reduced rate with urea without reducing the effectiveness of the chemical treatment (Purea, 1985). Spraying should be carried out after rain when the plants are actively growing (Chadhokar, 1978).

Other post-emergence herbicides active on M. pudica include dicamba, picloram and triclopyr (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992), as well as fenoprop and amitrole. 2,4-D alone may not be fully effective, but mixtures with MSMA and with ioxynil are recommended (Kostermans et al., 1987). Pre-emergence herbicides effective against a range of weeds, including M. pudica, in a mango nursery included oxyfluorfen, diuron, atrazine and isoproturon (Challa, 1984). Post-emergence application of propanil + oxadiazon was reported to be effective in upland rice (Mandal, 1977). In transplanted rice butachlor and byspiribac successfully controlled a range of weeds including M. pudica (Dahiphale et al., 2015). Metribuzin and prosulfocarb were found effective in Dioscorea yams (Jean-Baptiste and Grossard, 2010). PIER (2017) notes that it is very sensitive to picloram and also sensitive to triclopyr while dicamba and 2,4-D are poor. Soil applied tebuthiuron can be effective (Motooka et al., 2002).  In pasture situations, dicamba and fluroxypyr can be used (ISSG, 2017).


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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.


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09/03/2017 Updated by:

Chris Parker, Consultant, UK

10/04/2008 Updated by:

Chris Parker, Consultant, UK

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