Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Myriophyllum aquaticum
(parrot's feather)

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Datasheet

Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 11 February 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Myriophyllum aquaticum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • parrot's feather
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • M. aquaticum (parrot-feather) is an invasive submerged/ emergent aquatic weed characteristic of sub-tropical to warm-temperate regions, but found as far north as the UK (recorded from at least 33 countries: nativ...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. May 2007.
TitleHabit
CaptionMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. May 2007.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. May 2007.
HabitMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. May 2007.©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. May 2007.
TitleHabit
CaptionMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. May 2007.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. May 2007.
HabitMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. May 2007.©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); invasive habit. Australia. September 2014.
TitleHabit
CaptionMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); invasive habit. Australia. September 2014.
Copyright©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); invasive habit. Australia. September 2014.
HabitMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); invasive habit. Australia. September 2014.©Harry Rose (Macleay Grass Man)/via flickr - CC BY 2.0
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); stem and leaves.
TitleStem and leaves
CaptionMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); stem and leaves.
Copyright©André Karwath (aka Aka)/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); stem and leaves.
Stem and leavesMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); stem and leaves.©André Karwath (aka Aka)/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); leaves in hand. Sacred Garden of Maliko, Maui, Hawaii, USA. January 2011.
TitleLeaves
CaptionMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); leaves in hand. Sacred Garden of Maliko, Maui, Hawaii, USA. January 2011.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2011 - CC BY 4.0
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); leaves in hand. Sacred Garden of Maliko, Maui, Hawaii, USA. January 2011.
LeavesMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); leaves in hand. Sacred Garden of Maliko, Maui, Hawaii, USA. January 2011.©Forest & Kim Starr-2011 - CC BY 4.0
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); close view of a stem and leaves.
TitleStem and leaves
CaptionMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); close view of a stem and leaves.
Copyright©André Karwath (aka Aka)/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); close view of a stem and leaves.
Stem and leavesMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); close view of a stem and leaves.©André Karwath (aka Aka)/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather). inavsive habit, a problem in irrigation channels and river systems.
TitleHabit
CaptionMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather). inavsive habit, a problem in irrigation channels and river systems.
Copyright©K.J. Murphy
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather). inavsive habit, a problem in irrigation channels and river systems.
HabitMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather). inavsive habit, a problem in irrigation channels and river systems. ©K.J. Murphy
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Emergent leaves glaucous, in whorls of 4-6, erect near apex, spreading in lower parts, narrowly oblanceolate in outline, rounded at apex, 2.5-3.5 x 0.7-0.8 cm.
TitleLeaves
CaptionMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Emergent leaves glaucous, in whorls of 4-6, erect near apex, spreading in lower parts, narrowly oblanceolate in outline, rounded at apex, 2.5-3.5 x 0.7-0.8 cm.
Copyright©K.J. Murphy
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Emergent leaves glaucous, in whorls of 4-6, erect near apex, spreading in lower parts, narrowly oblanceolate in outline, rounded at apex, 2.5-3.5 x 0.7-0.8 cm.
LeavesMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); habit. Emergent leaves glaucous, in whorls of 4-6, erect near apex, spreading in lower parts, narrowly oblanceolate in outline, rounded at apex, 2.5-3.5 x 0.7-0.8 cm.©K.J. Murphy
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); stems float out over the water surface to form dense tangled rafts of plant material, from which emergent shoots arise giving an impenetrable weed problem.
TitleHabit
CaptionMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); stems float out over the water surface to form dense tangled rafts of plant material, from which emergent shoots arise giving an impenetrable weed problem.
Copyright©K.J. Murphy
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); stems float out over the water surface to form dense tangled rafts of plant material, from which emergent shoots arise giving an impenetrable weed problem.
HabitMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); stems float out over the water surface to form dense tangled rafts of plant material, from which emergent shoots arise giving an impenetrable weed problem.©K.J. Murphy
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); plants for sale in a garden centre. USA. February 2004.
TitlePathway cause
CaptionMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); plants for sale in a garden centre. USA. February 2004.
Copyright©Leslie J. Mehrhoff/University of Connecticut/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); plants for sale in a garden centre. USA. February 2004.
Pathway causeMyriophyllum aquaticum (parrot's feather); plants for sale in a garden centre. USA. February 2004.©Leslie J. Mehrhoff/University of Connecticut/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Myriophyllum aquaticum (Vell.) Verd. (1753)

Preferred Common Name

  • parrot's feather

Other Scientific Names

  • Enydria aquatica Vell.
  • Myriophyllum brasiliense Cambess.
  • Myriophyllum proserpinacoides Gillies

International Common Names

  • English: parrot feather; parrot feather watermilfoil; parrot-feather; parrot's-feather
  • Spanish: helecho de agua; pluma de ara; yerba de sapo (Argentina)
  • Portuguese: pinheirinha

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: milfolhas-da-agua; pinheirinho-da-agua
  • Germany: Papageienfeder; Tausendblatt, Brasilianisches
  • Japan: oofusamo
  • Netherlands: vederkruid, dicht

EPPO code

  • MYPBR (Myriophyllum aquaticum)

Summary of Invasiveness

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M. aquaticum (parrot-feather) is an invasive submerged/ emergent aquatic weed characteristic of sub-tropical to warm-temperate regions, but found as far north as the UK (recorded from at least 33 countries: native to perhaps 6 of these, all in South America). It was recorded as an alien as early as 1906 in Florida, and 1919 in South Africa. It is a particular problem of small water bodies, irrigation channel networks, and small streams, where it primarily impedes flow and causes a range of associated environmental problems, such as water deoxygenation. Long-distance spread via the aquarium/ garden trade has been a notable anthropogenic vector. Once introduced to a new region it spreads rapidly, primarily by vegetative stem fragmentation, male plants are rarely recorded outside the native range so seed production is (so-far) negligible as a vector. It is listed as a notifiable/ prohibited weed in many countries and states worldwide.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Haloragidales
  •                         Family: Haloragidaceae
  •                             Genus: Myriophyllum
  •                                 Species: Myriophyllum aquaticum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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There are 54 currently-recognised species of Myriophyllum, submerged, emergent or seasonally terrestrial (Cook, 1990; Chambers et al., 2008) but only two are major aquatic weed species: Myriophyllum spicatum and Myriophyllum aquaticum. As an adventive M. aquaticum is usually known only with female flowers: males are found only in its native range in the lowlands of central, eastern and western South America.

Description

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Orchard (1981). Stout aquatic or marsh-dwelling herb; stems to 2 m long, 4-5 mm diameter near base, glaucous, rooting freely from lower nodes, glabrous. Submerged leaves in whorls of (4-)5-6, oblanceolate in outline, rounded at apex (1.7-) 3.5-4.0 cm long, (0.4-) 0.8-1.2 cm wide, pectinate, with 25-30 linear pinnae up to 0.7 cm long, the lower leaves usually decaying rapidly. Emergent leaves glaucous, in whorls of (4-) 5-6, erect near apex, spreading in lower parts, narrowly oblanceolate in outline, rounded at apex, (1.5-) 2.5-3.5 cm long, (0.4 -) 0.7-0.8 cm wide, pectinate, with (18-) 24-36 pinnae in the upper four-fifths (lower 5-7 mm of rachis naked) pinnae linear to subulate, 4.5-5.5 mm long, 0.3 mm wide, tips very shortly apiculate, slightly incurved. Numerous hydathodes at base of leaves. Plants dioecious, males much less common than female throughout introduced range. Inflorescence an indeterminate spike with flowers singly borne in axils of upper emergent leaves, subtended by 2 bracteoles. Bracteoles subulate, 1.2-1.5 mm long with (1-) 2 short teeth in the lower-third, sometimes almost trifid.

Flowers strictly unisexual. Male flowers tetramerous, sessile at first, with pedicels to 4 mm long usually developing at anthesis. Sepals 4, ovate-deltoid, 0.7-0.8 mm long, 0.3 mm wide, very weakly denticulate, smooth. Petals 4, yellow, weakly hooded and keeled, (2.3-) 2.7-3.1 mm long, 0.8-1.1 mm wide. Stamens 8; filaments 0.1 mm long at anthesis; lengthening later to up to 1.2 mm; anthers yellow, linear-oblong (1.8-) 2.0-2.7 mm long, 0.2 mm wide, non-apiculate. Styles 0.

Female flowers tetramerous, on pedicel 0.2-0.4 mm long. Sepals 4, white, deltoid, 0.4-0.5 mm long, 0.3 mm wide, denticulate with one to several small teeth on each margin, smooth. Petals 0. Stamens 0. Styles 4, clavate, 0.1-0.2 mm long, stigmas white, densely fimbriate. Ovary pyriform, 0.6-0.7 mm long, 0.6 mm wide, 4-ribbed longitudinally between sepals.

Fruit (immature) on pedicel 0.7-0.8 mm long, cylindrical to ovoid, 1.7 mm long, 1.3-1.4 (-1.7) mm diameter. Sepals are first persistent, erect, deltoid, 0.6 mm long, 0.3 mm wide, toothed towards tip, withering at maturity. Mericarps cylindrical, 1.7 mm long, 0.6-0.7 mm diameter, slightly wider towards base, apex oblique, with an indistinct thickened rim, otherwise smooth, rounded on dorsal surface.

Distribution

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M. aquaticum is indigenous to South America (Orchard, 1981; Sutton, 1985) where it prefers warm areas rather than hotter tropical regions: especially Argentina (as far south as northern Patagonia), Chile, Paraguay, Peru and southern Brazil, but recorded also in Uruguay, Bolivia and Colombia (Steubing et al., 1980; Claps 1991; Fernández et al., 1993; Mereles and Degen, 1993; Arrocena and Mazzeo, 1994; Leon et al., 1998; Maine et al., 1998; Nunez et al., 1998; Sabbatini et al., 1998; Ritter and Crow, 1999; Schessl, 1999; Pitelli et al., 2000; Schmidt-Munn and Posada, 2000; Murphy et al., 2003; Maltchik et al., 2005). Although usually benign in its native range, M. aquaticum can and does cause weed problems in South America (Fernandez et al., 1993). It is invasive in reservoirs in Brazil as far north as Rio de Janeiro State (e.g. Kissman and Groth, 1995; Bini et al., 1999; Pitelli et al., 2000). It is now regarded as a major international aquatic weed, having been introduced to much of the warm-temperate to sub-tropical regions of the world (Randall, 2002). The weed is aggressively spreading in southern Africa, as far north as Kenya (Child, 1992; Chikwenhere, 1994, 2001; Mitchell, 1995; Ramoeli, 1995; Henderson and Cilliers, 2002; Foxcroft and Richardson, 2003; Cook, 2004; ECZ, 2004; Witt and Luke, 2017). It causes severe problems in southern states of the USA (and increasingly as far north as Oregon, Washington and New England (Nelson and Couch, 1985; Anderson, 1993; Anon 1994, 2001; Perkins et al., 1995; McCann et al., 1996; Bossard et al., 2000; Robinson, 2002; Parsons et al., 2003), New Zealand and Australia (Muyt, 2001; Champion and Clayton, 2003; Roy et al., 2004), and southern Europe (Portugal and France; Teles and Pinto da Silva, 1975; Costa et al., 1999; Moreira et al., 1999; Catarino et al., 2001; Peltre and Muller, 2002; Rebillard et al., 2002; Tabacchi and Planty-Tabacchi, 2002). It occurs and occasionally causes problems (with a trend towards increasing severity and occurrence of infestations, possibly associated with a trend towards warmer winters) in cooler regions of central Europe and the British Isles (Bank-Signon and Patzke, 1988; Dawson, 1993; Clarke and Newman, 2002; Van der Velde et al., 2002). It was designated a Rank A Invasive Alien Species (i.e., included among the 16 most invasive weeds) in Japan in 2004 (Muranaka et al., 2005).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

CambodiaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
ChinaPresentIntroducedYu et al., 2002, publ. 2003
IndonesiaRestricted distributionEPPO, 2014
-JavaPresentIntroducedOrchard, 1981; EPPO, 2014
IsraelPresent, few occurrencesEPPO, 2014
JapanPresentIntroducedOrchard, 1981; Shibayama, 1988; Kadono, 2004; Muranaka et al., 2005; EPPO, 2014
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedOrchard, 1981; EPPO, 2014
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedOrchard, 1981; EPPO, 2014
TaiwanPresentLi and Hsieh, 1996"Nearly naturalized"
ThailandPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
VietnamPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014

Africa

BotswanaPresentIntroducedChild, 1992
KenyaPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017
LesothoPresentIntroducedRamoeli, 1995
MadagascarPresentIntroducedOrchard, 1981; EPPO, 2014
South AfricaWidespreadJacot-Guillarmod, 1977; Mitchell et al., 1993; Cook, 2004; EPPO, 2014
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017
ZambiaPresentIntroduced Invasive ECZ, 2004In sewage settling ponds at Livingstone
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedOrchard, 1981; Chikwenhere, 1994; Chikwenhere, 2001; EPPO, 2014

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedOrchard, 1981; Bonilla-Barbosa, 1994; Lot and Novelo, 2004; EPPO, 2014
USAWidespreadEPPO, 2014
-AlabamaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Zolczynski and Jernigan, 2002; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014Class C noxious weed
-ArizonaPresentTellman, 2002; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-ArkansasWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-CaliforniaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Anderson, 1993; Rejmanek and Randall, 1994; Bossard et al., 2000; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-ConnecticutPresentIntroducedLes and Mehrhoff, 1999; Capers et al., 2005; EPPO, 2014
-DelawarePresentIntroducedLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-FloridaPresentLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Schardt and Schmitz, 1990; McCann et al., 1996; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-GeorgiaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-HawaiiWidespreadOrchard, 1981; Holm et al., 1991; Anderson, 1993; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-IdahoPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-IllinoisPresentIntroducedAnon, 1994; USDA-NRCS, 2007
-KansasPresentEPPO, 2014
-KentuckyLocalisedIntroducedLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-LouisianaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Neyland, 2007; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-MaineLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Gregory, 2003; USDA-NRCS, 2007
-MarylandPresentIntroducedLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-MassachusettsPresentLes and Mehrhoff, 1999; Robinson, 2002; EPPO, 2014
-MississippiLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-MissouriLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Kendig and Defelice, 1993; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-New MexicoLocalisedIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2007
-New YorkLocalisedIntroducedLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Les and Mehrhoff, 1999; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-North CarolinaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-OhioPresentUSDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-OklahomaPresentCouch and Nelson, 1983; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-OregonPresentPerkins et al., 1995; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-PennsylvaniaLocalisedIntroducedLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroducedLorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Les and Mehrhoff, 1999; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-South CarolinaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Patterson and Davis, 1991; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-TennesseeWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Anon, 2001; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-TexasPresentKley and Hine, 1998; Turner et al., 2003; Owens et al., 2004; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-VermontPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedAnon, 1998; USDA-NRCS, 2007
-VirginiaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Parsons, 1996; Anon, 1999; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014
-WashingtonPresentSytsma, 1998; Parsons et al., 2002; USDA-NRCS, 2007; EPPO, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentEPPO, 2014
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedOrchard, 1981; EPPO, 2014

South America

ArgentinaPresentOrchard, 1981; Claps, 1991; Maine et al., 1998; Nunez et al., 1998; Sabbatini et al., 1998; EPPO, 2014
BoliviaPresentRitter and Crow, 1999; EPPO, 2014
BrazilPresentNativeEPPO, 2014
-Mato GrossoLocalisedSchessl, 1999Pantanal waterbodies
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentLorenzi, 1982; Murphy et al., 2003
-ParanaPresentLorenzi, 1982; Bini et al., 1999
-Rio de JaneiroPresentLorenzi, 1982; Pitelli et al., 2000
-Rio Grande do SulPresentNativeOrchard, 1981
-Santa CatarinaPresentNativeOrchard, 1981
-Sao PauloPresentNativeLorenzi, 1982
ChilePresentSteubing et al., 1980; Orchard, 1981; EPPO, 2014
ColombiaPresentSchmidt-Mumm and Posada, 2000; EPPO, 2014
EcuadorPresentEPPO, 2014
ParaguayPresentNativeOrchard, 1981; Mereles and Degen, 1993; Vogt and Mereles, 2005; EPPO, 2014
PeruPresentOrchard, 1981; Leon et al., 1998; EPPO, 2014
UruguayPresentNativeOrchard, 1981; Arocena and Mazzeo, 1994; EPPO, 2014

Europe

AustriaPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedOrchard, 1981; EPPO, 2014
FranceRestricted distributionOrchard, 1981; Dutartre, 1986; Peltre et al., 2002; EPPO, 2014
-CorsicaPresent, few occurrencesEPPO, 2014
GermanyLocalisedIntroducedHussner and Lösch, 2005; EPPO, 2014
IrelandPresentIntroducedCaffrey, 2006
NetherlandsWidespreadVelde et al., 2002; EPPO, 2011; EPPO, 2014EPPO Reporting Service No. 2011/252.
PortugalPresentMurphy et al., 1993; Costa et al., 1999; Ferreira and Moreira, 1999; EPPO, 2014
UKLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Chicken, 1977; Orchard, 1981; Maskell et al., 2006; EPPO, 2014

Oceania

AustraliaWidespreadEPPO, 2014
-New South WalesPresentIntroduced Invasive Orchard, 1981; Wilson, 1991; CHAH, 2005; EPPO, 2014
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedOrchard, 1981; Stanley, 1986; Stephens and Dowling, 2002; CHAH, 2005; EPPO, 2014
-South AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive CHAH, 2005; EPPO, 2014
-TasmaniaPresentIntroducedCHAH, 2005; EPPO, 2014
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedOrchard, 1981; Jeanes, 1996; Gunasekera, 2001; Muyt, 2001; Gunasekera et al., 2002; CHAH, 2005; EPPO, 2014
-Western AustraliaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Orchard, 1987; Wheeler et al., 2002; CHAH, 2005; EPPO, 2014
New ZealandPresentIntroduced Invasive Orchard, 1981; Sykes, 1982; EPPO, 2014

Risk of Introduction

Top of page Myriophyllum species, like most other invasive aquatic plants, are largely spread between geographically separate regions by human dispersal (mainly by the aquatic plants trade for aquaria and garden ponds (e.g. Revilla et al., 1991; Kay and Hoyle, 2001; Allison, 2003; Gregory, 2003). Once established in a new locality their spread is via a range of mechanisms. The plants are easily spread downstream in the form of vegetative fragments or seed (though the latter seems much less important than the former: e.g Sidorkewicj et al., 2000).

Plant fragments are also easily transported attached to ships or boats. In the Nile in Egypt, carriage of Myriophyllum fragments on ships and other river traffic is the most likely mechanism for the upstream spread of the species in recent years, as far as Aswan in Upper Egypt (Springuel and Murphy, 1991). In Canada and elsewhere, quarantine measures have been introduced involving public information campaigns and boat inspections (for example at ferry landing points on Vancouver Island, British Columbia) to try to minimize transfer of plant material to uninfested river and lake systems.

Finally, the spread of the plants via natural vectors (especially waterfowl, either via the digestive tract or attached to plumage) is always a possible means of transfer.

Habitat

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M. aquaticum is mainly found growing in low-lying areas, in shallow waters and on muddy substrates, but also recorded at higher altitudes, from as high as 3250 m in Peru and 1900 m in Brazil. Typically found in floodplain lagoon and backwater habitats of major rivers such as the Paraná in Brazil. Fernandez et al. (1993) listed the plant as "present as weed, importance unknown" in lakes, ponds, marshes, fens and irrigation channel systems in Argentina and Brazil, and in lakes and ponds only in Chile.

The weed strongly favours eutrophic conditions. It tolerates (and often displaces native species from) coastal or saline-influenced waters, to 3.3 ppt salinity. However, 10 ppt is toxic to the plant (this is particularly a problem in irrigation channel and river systems). It infested 24% of irrigation channel systems in California in 1985, with 914 km of waterway affected (Anderson, 1993). In Portugal, Ferreira et al. (1995) found M. aquaticum to be one of the two most important aquatic weeds at 39% of sites surveyed in the Sorraia river system.

M. aquaticum acts as a rice weed in Indonesia and Cambodia, and M. spicatum as a weed of transplanted and deep-water rice in Bangladesh, India and Vietnam.

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Freshwater
Irrigation channels Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Lakes Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rivers / streams Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Ponds Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Brackish
Lagoons Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

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Warm, shallow water and eutrophic conditions favour growth of M. aquaticum (Sutton, 1985). It can withstand considerable desiccation (Cook, 2004). Its stems may float out over the surface to form dense tangled rafts of plant material, from which the emergent shoots arise to give an impenetrable weed problem. Small fragments root easily in mud to establish new colonies: vegetative propagation seems to be much more important than seed production as a means of dispersal (e.g. Sidorkewicj et al., 2000). Indeed in most of its introduced range male plants appear to be absent, and the plant's rapid non-sexual dispersal (via stem fragments) is all the more remarkable. Barko and Smart (1981) demonstrated luxury uptake of nitrogen and phosphorus from sediments by M. aquaticum, a characteristic feature of highly competitive plants adapted to life in productive environments (Murphy, 1995). Concentration of phosphorus and biomass reserves in the emergent shoots was shown by Sytsma and Anderson (1993). Rejmankova (1992) confirmed this strongly competitive, productive growth strategy for M. aquaticum. The plant also shows some degree of stress-tolerance, for example in tolerating moderate salinity stress (Haller et al., 1974) and is noted for its ability to tolerate disturbance caused by mechanical cutting. Its established-phase life strategy is probably C-CSR, using Grime's (1979) terminology.

It appears fairly intolerant of cold winter conditions, but appears able to survive short, infrequent frosts, thereby enabling it to survive, for example in normally mild winter conditions in northern England.

Cattle and waterfowl graze the shoots, but standard biocontrol fish such as grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) often do not appear to find the plant palatable (see section on Biological control). Other obligate or near-obligate herbivorous insects may help control the plant in its native range according to Fernández et al. (1993) where it appears to cause fewer problems than when present as an alien elsewhere in the world. Extracts from tissues of M. aquaticum have been shown to have an allelopathic influence on Lemna (Elakovich and Woofen, 1989) and blue-green algae (Saito et al., 1989).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Df - Continental climate, wet all year Tolerated Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
20-55 0-40

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 5 25
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 15 30
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 0 10

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Depth (m b.s.l.) Optimum <1.5 preferred
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 1.0-10.0 Optimum
Salinity (part per thousand) 1.0 3.0 Optimum <1.0-10.0 tolerated
Velocity (cm/h) Optimum Prefers low flows
Water pH (pH) 7-9 Optimum
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 5-20 Optimum 2-30 tolerated. Damaged/destroyed by freezing conditions

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Ctenopharyngodon idella Herbivore
Euhrychiopsis lecontei Herbivore
Listronotus marginicollis Herbivore Stems
Lysathia flavipes Herbivore Leaves
Lysathia ludoviciana Herbivore Stems
Mycoleptodiscus terrestris Pathogen
Pythium carolinianum Pathogen Roots/Stems

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Insects (Lysathia flavipes and Listronotus marginicollis) are known to damage the plant in its native range in Argentina and have had some success in South Africa (Habeck and Wilkerson, 1980; Cilliers, 1999). Moth larvae of Parapoynx allionealis mine the leaves of M. aquaticum but practical value as a control measure is not established (Habeck, 1974). There is limited evidence that the milfoil weevil, Euhrychiopsis lecontei, can damage M. aquaticum (Solarez and Newman, 2001). Fungi such as Rhizoctonia solani are known to damage the plant only marginally (Joyner and Freeman, 1973) and it is rare to observe populations of the plant in other than vigorous green healthy growth, suggesting a high degree of natural resistance to disease and herbivorous organisms. However, Pythium carolinianaum has been found in the USA to cause stem collapse in parrot-feather plants (Bernhardt and Duniway, 1984).

Cattle and waterfowl graze the shoots, but fish such as grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) do not appear to find the plant palatable (though there are occasional reports of grass carp damaging M. aquaticum: e.g. Dall’Armellina et al., 1999). Other obligate or near-obligate herbivorous insects may help control the plant in its native range, where it appears to cause fewer problems than when present as an alien elsewhere in the world (Fernández et al., 1993).
Beaver (Castor canadensis) herbivory has been shown to reduce the abundance of invasive M. aquaticum in North America by nearly 90%, consistent with recent evidence that native generalist herbivores can provide biotic resistance against exotic plant invasions (Parker et al., 2007).

Environmental Impact

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Anderson (1993) outlines the various ways in which aquatic weeds such as M. aquaticum can have detrimental impacts. These include interference with flow of irrigation water, transport, hydro-electric power production, fisheries, recreation, and increased risk of health hazards. Some specific problems reported for M. aquaticum include: interference with fisheries in South Africa (Jacot-Guillarmod, 1979); major problems for hydroelectric power production and forestry development in Argentina (Fernandez et al., 1993); increased incidence of mosquitoes in California (Anderson, 1993).

A 1985 survey of Californian waters suffering M. aquaticum problems (Anderson, 1993) found the direct control expenditure on this weed was US $215 000 over a 2-year period. Anderson (1993) estimated the total annual expenditure on aquatic weed control in the western USA to be in the region of US $50 million.

Major problems of blockage of waterways and lakes by M. aquaticum are prevalent, including spread in southwestern Europe, especially in areas of France such as the Landes region, and several rivers and associated irrigation areas in Portugal (Peltre et al., 2002; Dutartre, 2003).

Cook (2004) states that should male plants of M. aquaticum (not yet reported) be imported into southern Africa “it could well become a very noxious weed”. It appears to be spreading rapidly in southern Africa even by means of vegetative propagation alone (Nel et al., 2004).

There are reports of the species being of value for wastewater treatment in constructed wetlands, for example in New Zealand (e.g. Tanner, 2000).

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
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Modification of hydrology
  • Modification of natural benthic communities
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
  • Transportation disruption
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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The presence of emergent stems is a good identifying feature, distinguishing M. aquaticum from related species. These resemble miniature Christmas trees, generally having few branches, and standing up to 30 cm or more above the water surface in shallow waters, or when the plant grows amphibiously on moist, muddy areas. Both submerged and emergent leaves may occur on the same stem in plants growing in deeper waters: in this case the emergent portion tends to lie on or just above the surface.

Apart from its emerged shoots, M. aquaticum also differs from M. spicatum in having pinnatisect bracts, whereas those of M. spicatum are entire or only serrate (Cook, 1968).

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.

Chemical control

M. aquaticum is highly susceptible to 2,4-D, in spray or granular formulations (e.g. Blackburn and Weldon, 1963; Braddock, 1966), and is most effective when applied to young, actively-growing plants (Sutton and Bingham, 1970). It is also susceptible to simazine and copper (Sutton et al., 1969; Sutton and Blackburn, 1971). Endothal, diquat, chlorsulfuron and dichlobenil have been reported to control M. aquaticum (Mixon, 1974; Sikka et al., 1974; Negrisoli et al., 2003; Turgut et al., 2003; Hofstra et al., 2006). In field trials in Portugal, Monteiro and Moreira (1990) evaluated diquat, 2,4-D amine, glufosinate ammonium and glyphosate against M. aquaticum. Herbicides resulted in 9.0-18.3 kg per square metre fresh weight of M. aquaticum by 1 month after the first application, compared to 22.1 kg in untreated areas. The lowest fresh weights were produced by glufosinate ammonium followed by 2,4-D amine. By 4-5 months after the first application, treatment with 2,4-D amine and other herbicides resulted in 2.2 and 13.4-18.2 kg per square metre fresh weight, respectively, whereas the control area supported 21.8 kg per square metre of M. aquaticum. The control of M. aquaticum resulted in the spread of other aquatic weeds, in particular, Sparganium erectum, Typha spp. and Paspalum distichum, but these were considered less of a problem than the target species. Other herbicides reported to show varying degrees of control against M. aquaticum include triclopyr, glyphosate and carfentrazone ethyl (Glomski et al., 2006; Hofstra et al., 2006; Gray et al., 2007), although Foloni and Pitelli (2005) reported only poor results using carfentrazone-ethyl, even at the highest dose used (60 g a.i./ha).

Biological control

Biological control of M. aquaticum remains at an early stage (e.g. Gassmann et al., 2006; Haller et al., 2006). Verma and Charudattan (1993) reported that Mycoleptodiscus terrestris formulated as a mycoherbicide in alginate beads showed some toxicity to M. aquaticum. A considerable amount of research and practical management programmes utilising, in part, insect biocontrol agents for M. aquaticum has been done recently in South Africa, using insects such as Lysathia (e.g. Cilliers, 1999; Olckers, 2004; Zimmermann et al., 2004). Grass carp apparently dislike parrot-feather and trials in Portugal found that the fish will not consume the plant at all (MT Ferreira, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Lisbon, personal communication, 1996). Similar low-preference results were found with triploid grass carp using M. aquaticum in feeding trials (the plant was 10th out of 13 macrophyte species offered, in terms of preference shown by the fish) in the USA (Pine and Anderson, 1991), although more recent work in New Zealand and Argentina has reported some success (Dall’Armellina et al., 1999; Wells et al., 2003).

Mechanical control

Mechanical cutting is rarely effective because of the plant's ability to regrow rapidly from shoot fragments (Jacot-Guillarmod, 1977). However, more effective harvesting systems that remove the biomass and nutrient reserves accumulated in the emergent tissues (System and Anderson, 1993) may be an effective control measure. Ferreira and Moreira (1990) described the ecology and succession behaviour of M. aquaticum produced by disturbance-based mechanical clearance regimes in two highly mineralized, nutrient-rich canals of the Sorraia Irrigation Area of central Portugal. The shallow Guedelha channel was dominated by M. aquaticum, Polygonum hydropiper, Apium nodiflorum and Veronica anagalloides. Following the removal of M. aquaticum, grasses such as Paspalum distichum became established, then coexisted with regrowing M. aquaticum, before a more diverse emergent weed community finally established itself. In the deeper Vala Real, which was dredged during winter floods, a diverse community became established during the spring, and was followed by the progressive dominance of exotic weeds, including M. aquaticum by the end of the summer. Weed removal in spring resulted in a clear canal for 3 months, after which the same pattern of colonization occurred.

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Organizations

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USA: UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida, http:plants.ifas.ufl.edu/

Contributors

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14/10/2007 Updated by:

Kevin Murphy, University of Glasgow, IBLS - DEEB, Graham Kerr Building, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK

Distribution Maps

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