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Datasheet

Parthenium hysterophorus (parthenium weed)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 22 November 2017
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Parthenium hysterophorus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • parthenium weed
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • P. hysterophorus is an annual herb that aggressively colonises disturbed sites. Native to southern United States, Mexico and Central and South America, it has been accidentally introduced into several...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
P. hysterophorus plant and flowers.
TitleWhole plant and inflorescence
CaptionP. hysterophorus plant and flowers.
Copyright©S.D. Sawant
P. hysterophorus plant and flowers.
Whole plant and inflorescenceP. hysterophorus plant and flowers.©S.D. Sawant
Parthenium weed: detail of capitula (flower).
TitleDetail of flower
CaptionParthenium weed: detail of capitula (flower).
Copyright©CABI BioScience
Parthenium weed: detail of capitula (flower).
Detail of flowerParthenium weed: detail of capitula (flower).©CABI BioScience
Parthenium weed: rosette stage.
TitleRosette stage
CaptionParthenium weed: rosette stage.
Copyright©CABI BioScience
Parthenium weed: rosette stage.
Rosette stageParthenium weed: rosette stage.©CABI BioScience
Parthenium weed: rosette stage.
TitleRosette stage
CaptionParthenium weed: rosette stage.
Copyright©CABI BioScience
Parthenium weed: rosette stage.
Rosette stageParthenium weed: rosette stage.©CABI BioScience
Parthenium weed: mature flowering stage infesting crops along the Ganges, India.
TitleCrop infestation by P. hysterophorus
CaptionParthenium weed: mature flowering stage infesting crops along the Ganges, India.
Copyright©CABI BioScience
Parthenium weed: mature flowering stage infesting crops along the Ganges, India.
Crop infestation by P. hysterophorusParthenium weed: mature flowering stage infesting crops along the Ganges, India.©CABI BioScience

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Parthenium hysterophorus L.

Preferred Common Name

  • parthenium weed

Other Scientific Names

  • Argyrochaeta bipinnatifida Cav.
  • Parthenium lobatum Buckl.
  • Villanova binnatifida Ortega

International Common Names

  • English: barley flower; bastard feverfew; broomweed; congress grass; congress weed; dog flea weed; mugwort; Santa Maria feverfew; whiteheads; wormwood
  • Spanish: ajenjo cimarron; amargosa; camalote; escoba amarga; hierba amargosa; istafiate; requeson
  • French: parthenium matricaire
  • Portuguese: mentruz

Local Common Names

  • Brazil: coentro-do-mato; fazendeiro; losna-branca
  • Caribbean: feverfew
  • Cuba: cofitillo
  • Ethiopia: arama-kuba; arama-sorgo; biyabassa; chebchabe; dayessa; faramssissa; kalignole; qinche; terekabi
  • India: carrot weed; chatak chandani; gazar ghas; osadi
  • Jamaica: whitetop
  • Pakistan: babyflower; gandhi booti; lewanai bhang
  • USA: false ragweed; ragweed parthenium

EPPO code

  • PTNHY (Parthenium hysterophorus)

Summary of Invasiveness

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P. hysterophorus is an annual herb that aggressively colonises disturbed sites. Native to southern United States, Mexico and Central and South America, it has been accidentally introduced into several countries and has become a serious agricultural and rangeland weed in parts of Australia, Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands. It grows on any type of soil and in a wide range of habitats. It affects the production of crops, animals, human and animal health, and biodiversity. Several characteristics, such as wide adaptability, photo- and thermo-insensitivity, drought tolerance, strong competition and allelopathy, high seed production ability, longevity of seeds in soil seed banks, and small and light seeds that are capable of long distance travel via wind, water, birds, vehicles, farm machinery and other animal traffic, contribute to its rapid introduction world-wide, cutting across national boundaries and climate barriers.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Asterales
  •                         Family: Asteraceae
  •                             Genus: Parthenium
  •                                 Species: Parthenium hysterophorus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The name Parthenium hysterophorus is universally accepted for this increasingly widespread weed, commonly known as parthenium weed. Dale (1981) distinguished 'North American' and 'South American' races, the latter race having larger flower heads and disc florets, yellow rather than white petals and less development of axillary branches. Picman and Towers (1982) suggested that, based on a chemical analysis of the sesquiterpene lactones, these may be separated at the subspecies or even the species level.

Parker (1989) identified two biotypes with different flowering patterns in Mexico, whilst two genetically distinct biotypes (Clermont and Toogoolawah) have also been delimited in Australia (Adkins et al., 1997). Recently, Hanif et al. (2011) found that these two biotypes are different in their morphology and reproductive behaviour; in particular, the Toogoolawah biotype shows a greater tendency towards self-pollination. The chromosome number has been reported as 2n=18 in India (Hakoo, 1963) and Australia (Navie et al., 1996); however, both lower (=9) and higher (=34) chromosome numbers have also been attributed to parthenium weed (Kohli and Rani, 1994).

Description

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P. hysterophorus is an erect, much-branched with vigorous growth habit, aromatic, annual (or a short-lived perennial), herbaceous plant with a deep taproot. The species reproduces by seed. In its neotropical range it grows to 30-90 cm in height (Lorenzi, 1982; Kissmann and Groth, 1992), but up to 1.5 m, or even 2.5 m, in exotic situations (Haseler, 1976; Navie et al., 1996). Shortly after germination the young plant forms a basal rosette of pale green, pubescent, strongly dissected, deeply lobed leaves, 8-20 cm in length and 4-8 cm in width. The rosette stage may persist for considerable periods during unfavourable conditions (such as water or cold stress). As the stem elongates, smaller, narrower and less dissected leaves are produced alternately on the pubescent, rigid, angular, longitudinally-grooved stem, which becomes woody with age. Both leaves and stems are covered with short, soft trichomes, of which four types have been recognized and are considered to be of taxonomic importance within the genus (Kohli and Rani, 1994).

Flower heads are both terminal and axillary, pedunculate and slightly hairy, being composed of many florets formed into small white capitula, 3-5 mm in diameter. Each head consists of five fertile ray florets (sometimes six, seven or eight) and about 40 male disc florets. The first capitulum forms in the terminal leaf axil, with subsequent capitula occurring progressively down the stem on lateral branches arising from the axils of the lower leaves. Thousands of inflorescences, forming in branched clusters, may be produced at the apex of the plant during the season. Seeds (achenes) are black, flattened, about 2 mm long, each with two thin, straw-coloured, spathulate appendages (sterile florets) at the apex which act as air sacs and aid dispersal.

Plant Type

Top of page Annual
Broadleaved
Herbaceous
Seed propagated

Distribution

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The genus Parthenium contains 15 species, all native to North and South America. P. hysterophorus has a native range in the subtropical regions of North to South America. It is thought that the species originated in the region surrounding the Gulf of Mexico, including southern USA, or in central South America (Dale, 1981; Navie et al., 1996), but is now widespread in North and South America and the Caribbean, and Fournet and Hammerton (1991) indicate that it occurs in 'probably all islands' of the Lesser Antilles.

Since its accidental introduction into Australia and India in the 1950s, probably as a contaminant of grain or pasture seeds, it has achieved major weed status in those countries. It was first recorded in southern Africa in 1880 but was not reported as a common weed in parts of that region until the mid-1980s following extensive flooding on the east coast (McConnachie et al., 2011). Recent reports of the weed from other countries indicate that its geographic range continues to increase. 

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

BangladeshPresentIntroduced Invasive Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
BhutanPresentIntroduced Invasive Parker, 1992; EPPO, 2014
ChinaPresentIntroduced Invasive Aneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedAneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-GuangxiPresentIntroducedAneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-GuizhouPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008; EPPO, 2014
-HunanPresentIntroducedAneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-YunnanPresentIntroducedAneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
IndiaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-Andhra PradeshWidespreadIntroducedSantapau, 1967; Ellis and Swaminathan, 1969; Mahadevappa, 1997
-AssamPresentIntroducedRao, 1979; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
-BiharWidespreadIntroducedChandra, 1973; Maheshwari and Pandey, 1973; EPPO, 2014
-ChandigarhWidespreadIntroducedKumari et al., 1985; Aneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-DelhiWidespreadIntroducedMaheshwari, 1966; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
-GujaratWidespreadIntroducedMahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-HaryanaWidespreadIntroducedAneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-Himachal PradeshWidespreadIntroducedVaid and Naithani, 1970; EPPO, 2014
-Indian PunjabWidespreadIntroducedMahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-Jammu and KashmirWidespreadIntroducedHakoo, 1963; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-KarnatakaWidespreadIntroducedJayachandra, 1971; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-KeralaWidespreadIntroducedMahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-Madhya PradeshWidespreadIntroducedMaheshwari, 1968; Tiwari and Bisen, 1984; EPPO, 2014
-MaharashtraWidespreadIntroducedRao, 1956; Vartak, 1968; EPPO, 2014
-OdishaPresentIntroducedMahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-RajasthanPresentIntroducedGena and Bhardwaj, 1980; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-Tamil NaduWidespreadIntroducedEllis and Swaminathan, 1969; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-Uttar PradeshWidespreadIntroducedEllis and Swaminathan, 1969; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-West BengalWidespreadIntroducedMandal et al., 1980; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
IsraelWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Joel and Liston, 1986; Navie et al., 1996; EPPO, 2014
JapanPresentEPPO, 2014
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
Korea, Republic ofPresent Invasive Shabbir and Adkins, 2013; EPPO, 2014
MalaysiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Rezaul Karim, 2014
NepalPresentIntroduced Invasive Evans, 1997a; Aneja et al., 1991; Mishra, 1991; EPPO, 2014
OmanPresentIntroduced1998 Invasive Alhammadi, 2010; EPPO, 2014
PakistanPresentIntroduced1980s Invasive Shabbir et al., 2011; EPPO, 2014
Sri LankaPresentJayasurya, 2005; EPPO, 2014
TaiwanPresentIntroducedTowers and Mitchell, 1983; Peng et al., 1988; Navie et al., 1996; EPPO, 2014
VietnamPresentIntroduced Invasive Maheshwari and Pandey, 1973; Aneja et al., 1991; Navie et al., 1996; EPPO, 2014
YemenPresentIntroduced Invasive Alhammadi, 2010; EPPO, 2014

Africa

ComorosPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008; EPPO, 2014
EgyptPresentIntroduced Invasive Zahran and Willis, 2009; EPPO, 2014
EritreaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
EthiopiaWidespreadIntroduced1980s Invasive Evans, 1997a; Medhin, 1992; Fasil, 1994; Frew et al., 1996; EPPO, 2014
KenyaPresentIntroduced Invasive Ivens, 1989; Njoroge, 1989; Navie et al., 1996; EPPO, 2014
MadagascarPresentIntroduced Invasive Aneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
MauritiusWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1991; Navie et al., 1996; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
MayottePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
MozambiquePresentIntroduced Invasive Aneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
RéunionPresentIntroduced Invasive Navie et al., 1996; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
SeychellesPresentIntroduced Invasive Navie et al., 1996; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
SomaliaPresentIntroducedTamado and Milberg, 2000; EPPO, 2014
South AfricaPresentIntroduced Invasive Maheshwari, 1966; Picman and Towers, 1982; Navie et al., 1996; McConnachie et al., 2011; EPPO, 2014
SwazilandPresentIntroducedHenderson, 2001; EPPO, 2014
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive McConnachie et al., 2011; EPPO, 2014
UgandaPresentIntroduced Invasive McConnachie et al., 2011; EPPO, 2014
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedMcConnachie et al., 2011; EPPO, 2014

North America

BermudaPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
MexicoWidespreadNative Not invasive Haseler, 1976; Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
USAWidespreadNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Holm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-AlabamaPresentAneja et al., 1991; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
-ArkansasPresentEPPO, 2014
-ConnecticutPresentEPPO, 2014
-DelawarePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
-District of ColumbiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
-FloridaPresentAneja et al., 1991; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive PIER, 2008; USDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014Hawai’i, Jaua ‘i, Maui, Moloka’i, O’ahu
-IllinoisPresentFernold, 1970; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-KansasPresentFernold, 1970; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-LouisianaPresentMahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-MarylandPresentArny, 1897; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
-MassachusettsPresentArny, 1897; EPPO, 2014
-MichiganPresentFernold, 1970; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-MinnesotaPresentMackoff and Dahl, 1951; Mahadevappa, 1997
-MississippiPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
-MissouriPresentFernold, 1970; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
-New YorkPresentEPPO, 2014
-OhioPresentFernold, 1970; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-OklahomaPresentEPPO, 2014
-PennsylvaniaPresentEPPO, 2014
-South CarolinaPresentEPPO, 2014
-TexasPresentCastex et al., 1940; McClay et al., 1995; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
-VirginiaPresentArny, 1897; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014

Central America and Caribbean

AnguillaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2008; EPPO, 2014
Antigua and BarbudaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
ArubaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
BahamasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
BarbadosPresentNativeDale, 1981; Kohli and Rani, 1994; USDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
BelizePresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
Cayman IslandsPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
Costa RicaPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; EPPO, 2014
CubaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Evans, 1997b; Holm et al., 1991; Navie et al., 1996; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012; EPPO, 2014
CuraçaoPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Kohli and Rani, 1994
DominicaPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
Dominican RepublicWidespreadNative Not invasive Evans, 1997b; Ciferri, 1956; Dale, 1981; Holm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
GrenadaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
GuadeloupePresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
GuatemalaPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
HaitiPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
HondurasPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
JamaicaWidespreadNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1991; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
MartiniquePresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
Netherlands AntillesPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
NicaraguaPresentLewis et al., 1988; EPPO, 2014
PanamaPresentHammel, 1997; EPPO, 2014
Puerto RicoWidespreadNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Saint LuciaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Trinidad and TobagoWidespreadNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1991; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
Turks and Caicos IslandsPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2008
United States Virgin IslandsPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014

South America

ArgentinaWidespreadNative Not invasive Castex et al., 1940; Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
BoliviaPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; Kohli and Rani, 1994; EPPO, 2014
BrazilPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; EPPO, 2014
-GoiasPresentLorenzi, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-Mato Grosso do SulPresentLorenzi, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-Minas GeraisPresentLorenzi, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-ParanaWidespreadLorenzi, 1982; Kissmann and Groth, 1992; EPPO, 2014
-Rio de JaneiroPresentLorenzi, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-Santa CatarinaPresentLorenzi, 1982; EPPO, 2014
-Sao PauloWidespreadLorenzi, 1982; Kissmann and Groth, 1992; EPPO, 2014
ChilePresentDale, 1981; EPPO, 2014
EcuadorPresentNativeMissouri Botanical Garden, 2008; USDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
French GuianaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
GuyanaPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; Mahadevappa, 1997; EPPO, 2014
ParaguayPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
PeruPresentDale, 1981; EPPO, 2014
SurinamePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
UruguayPresentNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
VenezuelaWidespreadNative Not invasive Dale, 1981; Aneja et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014

Europe

BelgiumTransient: actionable, under eradicationUSDA-ARS, 2012; EPPO, 2014
PolandTransient: actionable, under eradicationEPPO, 2014

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive Dale, 1981; Holm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroduced Invasive Auld and Medd, 1987; Navie et al., 1996; EPPO, 2014
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedAuld and Medd, 1987; Navie et al., 1996; EPPO, 2014
-QueenslandWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Haseler, 1976; Navie et al., 1996; EPPO, 2014
-Western AustraliaPresentEPPO, 2014
French PolynesiaPresentIntroduced Invasive Aneja et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014Raiatea
New CaledoniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Aneja et al., 1991; PIER, 2008; EPPO, 2014Iles Loyaute, Ile Mare, Ile Oyuvea, Ile Tiga, Ile Walpole, Ile Grande Terre, Ile des Pins
Papua New GuineaTransient: actionable, under eradicationEPPO, 2014
VanuatuWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Aneja et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1991; Navie et al., 1996; EPPO, 2014

History of Introduction and Spread

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P. hysterophorus is presumed to have entered India along with food grains imported from the USA (Vartak, 1968). It was identified and described by Rao (1956) in Pune (formally Poona), in the Maharashtra district, where it was first observed in 1955 (Vartak, 1968), and has since spread to most of the sub-continent (Nath, 1988). It is thought to have entered Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh via road connections, where thousands of vehicles cross between India and these countries every day at several places. In Pakistan, parthenium weed was first reported from Gujarat district of the Punjab Province in 1980s (Razaq et al., 1994) and since then it has rapidly spread throughout the Province of Punjab, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and parts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province. The weed is thought to have entered Nepal from India and is currently found throughout most of the lowland Tarai region that borders India, and within most of the cities and urban areas in the Dun Valleys of the Siwalik range and the Mid-hill region.

In Australia, Parthenium was first recorded near Toogoolawah in South-East Queensland in 1955, although this infestation did not spread widely (Auld et al., 1983). It has been suggested that this introduction was due to the movement of aircraft and machinery parts into Australia during the Second World War. A second accidental introduction occurred in central Queensland, north of Clermont, in 1958 and originated from contaminated pasture seed (Navie et al., 1996). This spread rapidly and affected many hundreds of square kilometres (McFadyen, 1992).

Parthenium weed was first recorded from southern Africa in 1880 (McConnachie et al., 2011) but did not become a weed there until the mid-1980s. It was recorded in Kenya in 1975 from Nairobi herbarium records, and has become a weed of Kenyan coffee plantations (Njoroge, 1991). In Ethiopia, parthenium weed was reported at Dire Dawa in 1988 (Fasil, 1994). There are two speculations: either the weed was introduced through wheat seed donated for relief from abroad or that it was introduced during the Ethio-Somali war in 1976/77 (Tamado and Milberg, 2000). However, parthenium weed was recorded in 1968 at the Alemaya University of Agriculture, Ethiopia (Tamado, 2001). From the presence of parthenium weed in Kenya and Somalia (Njoroge, 1991; Frew et al., 1996), and the capacity of parthenium weed seed to travel long distances through wind, water and other means, it is possible that it might have been introduced to Ethiopia from these neighbouring countries (Taye, 2002).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Australia 1950s Yes Auld and et al.(1983)
Ethiopia 1960s Tamado (2001)
India USA 1950s Yes Vartak (1968)
Kenya 1970s Yes
Queensland 1958 Seed trade (pathway cause) Yes Navie et al. (1996)
South Africa 1880 Yes McConnachie et al. (2011)

Risk of Introduction

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From the experience in India, Australia and Africa, it is clear that there is considerable risk of accidental introduction via crop or pasture seed and other possibilities. In spite of intensified plant quarantine regulations in most countries, such risks will persist, and given the wide climatic adaptability of the weed, further territories are likely to be affected (see, for example, McConnachie et al. (2011) for areas at risk in southern and eastern Africa). Using CLIMEX modelling, Shabbir (2012) predicted that parthenium weed is likely to expand its geographical distribution range in Australia and southern Asia, particularly into southern Pakistan where additional moisture is available in the form of irrigation. The current climate of northern Africa and south and south-eastern Europe are also suitable for parthenium weed. Under climate change, the northern parts of the African continent, northern China, most of eastern and northern Europe and the Mediterranean are also under the threat of invasion. It can be spread via flowing water or can be blown by wind, making prevention of spread difficult. Once introduced it can be spread by vehicles and farm machinery, and the transport of goods, sand, soil and compost from infested areas to uninfested areas.  

Habitat

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P. hysterophorus occurs in the humid and subhumid tropics, typically favouring heavier fertile soils, such as black, alkaline clay loams, but is able to grow on a wide variety of soil types from sea level up to 2400 m (Evans, 1987a; Taye et al., 2002). Areas receiving less than 500 mm of rainfall annually are probably unsuitable, although the weed has strong adaptive methods to tolerate both moisture stress (Kohli and Rani, 1994) and saline conditions (Hedge and Patil, 1982; Khurshid et al. 2012). It is especially prolific in disturbed habitats, such as along roadsides and railway tracks, river and creek banks, in stock yards, around buildings and on wasteland, from where it spreads and invades agricultural systems. It is also present in rangelands, villages, gardens, along streams, rivers, plant nurseries and crop fields. Rashmi et al. (1999) reported that it is also present in wetlands.

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Industrial / intensive livestock production systems Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Protected agriculture (e.g. glasshouse production) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

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In Australia, the main impact of P. hysterophorus has been in the pastoral region of Queensland, where it replaces forage plants, thereby reducing the carrying capacity for grazing animals (Haseler, 1976; Chippendale and Panetta, 1994). Serious encroachment and replacement of pasture grasses has also been reported in India (Jayachandra, 1971) and in Ethiopia (Tamado, 2001; Taye, 2002). The weed is also able to invade natural ecosystems, and has caused total habitat changes in native Australian grasslands and open woodlands (McFadyen, 1992). P. hysterophorus is now being reported from India as a serious problem in cotton, groundnuts, potatoes and sorghum, as well as in more traditional crops such as okra (Abelmoschus esculentus), brinjal (Solanum melongena), chickpea and sesame (Kohli and Rani, 1994), and is also proving to be problematic in a range of orchard crops, including cashew, coconut, guava, mango and papaya (Tripathi et al., 1991; Mahadevappa, 1997).

Similar infestations of sugarcane and sunflower plantations have recently been noted in Australia (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Navie et al., 1996), whilst in Brazil and Kenya, the principal crop affected is coffee (Njoroge, 1989; Kissmann and Groth, 1992). In Ethiopia, parthenium weed was observed to grow in maize, sorghum, cotton, finger millet (Eleusine coracana), haricot bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), tef (Eragrostis tef), vegetables (potato, tomato, onion, carrot) and fruit orchards (citrus, mango, papaya and banana) (Taye, 2002). In Pakistan, the weed has been reported from number of crops, including wheat, rice, sugarcane, sorghum, maize, squash, gourd and water melon (Shabbir 2006; Shabbir et al. 2011; Anwar et al. 2012).

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number has been reported as 2n=18 in India (Hakoo, 1963) and Australia (Navie et al., 1996), however, both lower (2n=9) and higher (2n=34) chromosome numbers have also been attributed to parthenium weed (Kohli and Rani, 1994). 

Two distinct races of parthenium weed have been identified, the 'South American' and the 'North American' races (Dale, 1981), the former with cream to yellow flowers and the latter with white flowers. Moreover, Towers et al. (1977) indicated that the sesquiterpene lactone, hymenin, which is present in plants from Argentina and Bolivia, is different from the lactone, parthenin, identified from most of the samples collected in India, as well as North and Central America. The detailed genetic comparison between plants from across the introduced range is necessary to ascertain the history of its spread and to develop management program.

Reproductive Biology

In Australia, parthenium weed germinates mainly in spring and early summer. It produces flowers and seeds throughout its life and dies in late autumn (Navie et al., 1996). It can grow at any time of the year as long as there is moisture (Tamado, 2001; Taye, 2002). It is unable to reproduce vegetatively from plant parts or by apomixis, but is a prolific seed producer (15,000-25,000 achenes per plant) (Haseler, 1976; Navie et al., 1996; Mahadevappa, 1997), and continues to flower and fruit until senescence. Pollen grains are spheroidal, 15 to 20 μm in size, and have short to medium length spines with an average of 168,192 pollen grains produced in each capitulum (Lewis et al., 1988).

The longevity of surface-lying seeds seems to be short with little or no dormancy, but there is evidence that buried achenes can remain viable for at least 4-6 years (Navie et al., 1996), and Navie et al. (1998) estimated the half-life of buried seed to be about 6 years. Whereas Tamado et al. (2002) reported that the viability of the seeds was greater than 50% after 26 months of burial in the soil, indicating the potential build-up of a substantial and persistent soil seed bank. Germination occurred at the mean minimum (10°C) and maximum (25°C) temperatures of the collection site, as well as over a wide range of fluctuating temperatures (12/2°C - 35/25°C) in light (Tamado et al., 2002). Seed germination can occur over a wide range of soil pH (2.5-10), with an optimum of 5.5-7.0 (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Germination may be increased after cold stratification, and with exposure to light (Karlsson et al., 2008).

Physiology and Phenology

Parthenium weed is an aggressive colonizer of disturbed ground, able to germinate, grow and flower over a wide range of temperatures and photoperiods. Seeds germinate all year-round provided moisture is available and germination rate is extremely high. Four or more successive cohorts of seedlings may be produced in a season (Pandey and Dubey, 1989). Flowering may begin as early as 4 weeks after seedling emergence (Jayachandra, 1971), and plants continue to flower for extended periods (6-8 months) when conditions permit.

Plants emerging during the first (spring) rains usually attain a greater size and have a significantly longer lifespan than those produced in the summer. Soil moisture appears to be the major contributing factor to both the lifespan and to duration of flowering. Plant biomass production increases with increasing temperature up to an optimum day/night temperature regime of 33/22°C (Williams and Groves, 1980). Under unfavourable (dry) conditions, the life cycle may take up to 335 days, compared to 86 days under optimum conditions. Physiological studies have shown that parthenium weed has a low photorespiratory activity and has the C3 photosynthetic pathway but with positive C4 tendencies (Patil and Hedge, 1983).

Environmental Requirements

Parthenium weed is an aggressive colonizer of disturbed ground, able to germinate, grow and flower over a wide range of temperatures and photoperiods. It occurs in the humid and sub-humid tropics, showing a marked preference for black, alkaline, cracking, clay soils of high fertility, but is able to grow on wide variety of soil types from sea level up to 1800 m (Evans, 1987a). In Ethiopia, it grows from low to high-mid-altitude areas at 900-2500 m asl (Taye, 2002). High clay content in soils prolonged the rosette stage, enhanced relative growth rates in height and diameter, and hampered root growth, but promoted biomass allocation to shoots (Annapurna and Singh, 2003). Mahadevappa (1997) noted that parthenium weed has several built-in properties and efficient behavioural mechanisms that enable it to overcome many ecological adversities and thus continue to survive under stress. Areas receiving less than 500 mm of rainfall are probably unsuitable, although the weed has strong adaptive methods to tolerate both moisture stress (Kohli and Rani, 1994) and saline conditions (Hegde and Patil, 1982). The weed finds access to any type of land but it is especially prolific in disturbed habitats, for example, roadsides and railway tracks, stock yards, around buildings and on waste land, from where it spreads and invades agricultural systems.

According to Dale (1981), the distribution of parthenium weed in Queensland is controlled by factors similar to those limiting the plant in its areas of origin. However, because of differences in land management, soils and climate, the plant covers much greater areas and is a far more significant problem in Australia. The combination of neutral to alkaline clays and absence of competing vegetation provided ideal conditions for the development of large stands of parthenium weed. The plant is more common on roadsides in Queensland than in North America, but this can be attributed to more regular disturbance. In natural grasslands, the situation is similar in the two areas, with parthenium weed becoming dominant only in the most overgrazed situations. The plant appeared more prominent in cultivated areas in North America, particularly during fallow periods, but in neither area does it significantly affect crop production. In all regions, the densest stands produce a complete ground cover with no other species present.

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])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
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)

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) -5
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 12 25
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 30 40
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 2 12

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall06mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Summer
Uniform

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free
  • impeded
  • seasonally waterlogged

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • shallow
  • sodic

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aphis fabae Herbivore
Cercospora parthenii Pathogen Leaves
Cercospora partheniphila Pathogen Leaves
Conotrachelus albocinereus Herbivore Stems
Conotrachelus albocinereus Herbivore Stems Dhileepan and McFadyen, 2012 Queensland
Entyloma compositarum Pathogen Leaves
Epiblema strenuana Herbivore Leaves Dhileepan and McFadyen, 2012 Australia (Queensland)
Golovinomyces cichoracearum Pathogen Leaves
Insignorthezia insignis Herbivore Larvae
Listronotus setosipennis Herbivore Stems Dhileepan and McFadyen, 2012; Strathie and McConnachie, 2013 Queensland, South Africa
Lixus scrobicollis Herbivore
Myrothecium roridum Pathogen
Plasmopara halstedii Pathogen Leaves/Stems
Platphalonidia mystica Herbivore Leaves Dhileepan and McFadyen, 2012 Queensland
Podosphaera xanthii Pathogen Leaves
Puccinia abrupta Pathogen
Puccinia abrupta var. partheniicola Pathogen Inflorescence/Leaves Dhileepan and McFadyen, 2012 Australia
Puccinia melampodii Pathogen Leaves Dhileepan and McFadyen, 2012 Australia
Smicronyx lutulentus Herbivore Seeds Australia
Stobaera concinna Herbivore Leaves/Stems
Trichoconiella padwickii Pathogen Leaves Kaur and Aggarwal, 2015
Zygogramma bicolorata Herbivore Leaves Dhileepan and McFadyen, 2012; Strathie and McConnachie, 2013 Australia; India; Karnataka; South Africa

Notes on Natural Enemies

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There is a considerable amount of literature concerning the natural enemies of parthenium weed, as the weed has been a target for biological control for more than 20 years. Between 1977 and 1991, extensive surveys of phytophagous arthropods were undertaken in its North American native range. Over 250 species were recorded during this period, and these have been assessed for specificity. The results of these studies have been summarized (McClay et al., 1995; Cock and Seier, 1999; Seier and Djeddour, 2000). Six stenophagous insect species, including a leaf feeder, leaf miner, stem borer, stem galler and seed feeder, were released in Australia as biological control agents, and an additional two species from Argentina were released later (Navie et al., 1996; Evans, 1997a). The pathogens associated with P. hysterophorus in the neotropics have also been surveyed and evaluated as biocontrol agents (Evans, 1987b; 1997a, b). All the insect species released in Australia are coevolved natural enemies, as are the pathogens currently being assessed, however, numerous ad hoc surveys and studies of both the arthropods and pathogens associated with parthenium weed in India (Kumar, 1998) and Ethiopia (Taye, 2002) have also been undertaken. These all represent adaptive or opportunistic natural enemies, most probably polyphagous or from related genera of Compositae. The results of these studies have been fully documented (Singh, 1997; Evans, 1997a; Kumar, 1998).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Parthenium weed seed can be moved and spread via water, farm machinery, industrial machinery, feral animals, humans, vehicles, stock fodder, movement of stock, grain and seed (PAG, 2000). It can also be spread by the wind because its seeds are small (1-2 mm diameter) and light (50 µg) and able to travel long distances (Navie et al., 1996; Taye, 2002). The transportation of soil, sand and gravel from Parthenium-infested areas to non-infested areas for construction purposes may be the reason for the high infestation along the roadsides and around buildings (Taye, 2002). Continental and inter-continental dispersal may occur when seeds contaminate commercial seed stocks or farm machinery.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal production Yes Yes PAG, 2000
Crop production Yes Yes PAG, 2000
Flooding and other natural disasters Yes PAG, 2000
Forage Yes Yes PAG, 2000
Seed trade Yes Yes PAG, 2000

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Bulk freight or cargo Yes PAG, 2000
Clothing, footwear and possessions Yes PAG, 2000
Containers and packaging - non-wood Yes Yes PAG, 2000
Land vehiclesTractors, combine harvestors, etc Yes
Livestock Yes PAG, 2000
Machinery and equipment Yes Yes PAG, 2000
Plants or parts of plantsAnimal dung, compost, etc Yes Yes PAG, 2000
Soil, sand and gravelSoil, sand, irrigation water, flood Yes Shabbir et al., 2011; Taye, 2002
Water Yes PAG, 2000
Wind Yes Navie et al., 1996; Taye, 2002

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Growing medium accompanying plants seeds Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches seeds Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
True seeds (inc. grain) seeds Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Negative
Native fauna Negative

Economic Impact

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It is only in the past 20-30 years that parthenium weed has come to the fore as a weed of major economic importance, based mainly on its rapid spread in Australia and India. The impacts of parthenium weed were summarized by Parson and Cuthbertson (1992), McFadyen (1992), Navie et al. (1996), Evans (1997a) and Mahadevappa (1997). Holm et al. (1991) recorded  parthenium weed as a ‘serious’ weed in Mexico and a ‘principal’ weed in Cuba. Since its impact is multi-faceted, affecting crop production, animal husbandry, human health and biodiversity, its overall economic impact is difficult to quantify.

The main impact of parthenium weed on crops relates to its allelopathic properties. The water soluble phenolics; caffeic acid, ferulic acid, vanicillic acid, anisic acid and fumaric acid; and sesquiterpene lactones, mainly parthenin and/or hymenin, occur in all parts of the plant and significantly inhibit the germination and subsequent growth of a wide variety of crops including pasture grasses, cereals, vegetables, other weeds and tree species (Navie et al., 1996; Evans, 1997a). Few critical assessments of yield losses have been made, although it has been determined that almost 30% grain loss can occur in irrigated sorghum in India (Channappagoudar et al., 1990). As Parthenium pollen is also allelopathic (Kanchan and Jayachandra, 1980), heavy deposits on nearby crop plants may result in failure of seed set, and losses of up to 40% have been reported in maize yield in India (Towers et al., 1977). In eastern Ethiopia, parthenium weed is the second most frequent weed (54%) after Digitaria abyssinica (63%) (Tamado and Milberg, 2000) and sorghum grain yield was reduced from 40 to 97% depending on the year and location (Tamado, 2001). Although P. hysterophorus is not yet considered to be a major crop weed in Australia (Navie et al., 1996), it has started to spread into sorghum, sugarcane and sunflower growing areas and negatively affect yields (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Also, Chippendale and Panetta (1994) estimate that cultivation costs may be doubled since the prepared ground has to be re-worked to eliminate the emergent parthenium weed seedlings.

Parthenium weed has also invaded forest land (Towers et al., 1977). It has become a menace in forest nurseries (Chandras, 1970). Swaminathan et al. (1990) reported its allelopathic effect on the multipurpose tree species Acacia leucocephala, Casuarina equisetifolia, Eucalyptus tereticornis and Leucaena leucocephala, along with some arable crops. The growth and nodulation of legumes were inhabited by parthenium weed because of the effect of allelochemicals on nitrogen fixing and nitrifying bacteria (Kanchan and Jayachandra, 1981; Dayama, 1986).

Another, indirect effect of parthenium weed on crop production is its role as an alternate host for crop pests. A wide range of crop insects and diseases has been reported from parthenium weed both in the neotropics and in its exotic range (McClay et al., 1995; Evans, 1997a; Singh, 1997). For example, it appears to be an important secondary host of a beetle pest (Pseudoheteronyx sp.) of sunflower in Australia, of plant parasitic nematodes in the USA (Navie et al., 1996), as well as of a major polyphagous lepidopteran pest (Diacrisia obliqua [Spilartica obliqua]) in India (Evans, 1997a). Similarly, it has been reported as a reservoir of Xanthomonas campestris pv. phaseoli [X. axonopodis pv. phaseoli], Pseudomonassolancearum [Burkholderia solanacearum], Tomato yellow leaf curl virus, Potato X virus and Potato Y virus in both Cuba and India (Evans, 1997a). It is also known to host the major parasitic weeds, Orobanche spp. and Cuscuta spp. in Ethiopia.

Parthenium weed also significantly impacts on livestock production by affecting grazing land, animal health, milk and meat quality and the marketing of pasture seeds and feed grain. It can reduce the percentage cover of palatable species of grasslands in India by up to 90% (Jayachandra, 1971). The most comprehensive economic analysis has been made in Australia, where Parthenium weed monocultures in grazing land in Queensland were estimated to cover more than 17,000 km², reducing cattle stocking rates by as much as 80% (McFadyen, 1992), with a net annual loss of revenue calculated at up to AU$17 million (Chippendale and Panetta, 1994). Further losses result if farms also supply harvesting machinery, fodder or grain, since there is now legislation to prevent their movement from infested properties because of contamination by weed seed. An additional, non-quantifiable side effect of parthenium weed is on animal health, as the sesquiterpene lactone, parthenin, has been shown to cause severe dermatitis, anorexia and intestinal damage, which can lead to death of buffalo, cattle and sheep (Towers and Subba Rao, 1992), and 10-50% of the weed in the diet can kill these animals within 30 days (Naarasimhan et al., 1977a, b, 1980; More et al., 1982). Taints of meat have been detected from sheep given a diet of 30% parthenium weed (Tudor et al., 1982) and tainting of milk, meat and honey have also been reported (Towers and Subba Rao, 1992; Taye, 2002).

Environmental Impact

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Parthenium weed lacks predators, and cattle and livestock usually do not feed on it. As a result, the food chain is disturbed and the trophic structure changes, leading to an ecological imbalance in the invaded area. The importance value index (IVI) of parthenium weed remained at a maximum in both cropped and non-cropped areas across the seasons (Tiwari and Bisen, 1984). It causes a prolonged toxic effect to the soil environment – for instance, Kanchan and Jayachandra (1981) reported that the leachates from parthenium weed have an inhibitory effect on nitrogen fixing and nitrifying bacteria.

Parthenium weed is also an environmental weed that can cause irreversible habitat changes in native grasslands, woodlands, river banks and floodplains in both India and Australia (Jayachandra 1971; McFadyen, 1992; Evans, 1997a; Kumar and Rohatgi, 1999). Huge stands of parthenium weed are common in almost all open areas. Parthenium weed, due to its allelopathic potential, replaces dominant flora and suppresses natural vegetation in a wide range of habitats and thus becomes a big threat to biodiversity. Batish et al. (2005) recorded 39 plant types in a Parthenium-free area, but only 14 were present in an infested area, and very little or sometimes no vegetation can be seen in some Parthenium-dominated areas (Kohli, 1992). Wherever it invades, it forms a territory of its own, replacing indigenous grasses and weeds which are supposedly useful for the grazing animals (De and Mukhopadhyay, 1983). Parthenium weed has an adverse effect on a variety of natural herbs which are the basis of traditional systems of medicines for the treatment of several diseases in various parts of the world (Mahadevappa et al., 2001; Shabbir and Bajwa, 2006).

Social Impact

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Parthenium weed is a poisonous or lethal weed for agricultural labourers and city-dwellers who are sensitive to it (Mukhopadhyay, 1987). Unfortunately there is no effective treatment for the different kinds of allergies, other than avoiding contact or leaving the area. In wastelands and public places such as gardens, recreation areas, parks, roadsides and railway tracks, where it is most serious, control has to be attempted on a community basis by local administrations. In India, campaigns have been attempted using children, the general public, NGOs and others (Bahn et al., 1997; Singh, 1997), and in Ethiopia there was a wide publicity campaign through TV, radio, posters and seminars to bring awareness and educate people (Taye, 2002).

The impact of parthenium weed on human health in India (Lonkar et al., 1974; Towers et al., 1977; Towers and Mitchell, 1983; Towers and Subba Rao, 1992; Kololgi et al., 1997), and more recently in Australia (McFadyen, 1995), is well documented. However, no economic analysis has been attempted despite reported widespread allergenic reactions to parthenium weed pollen and debris (trichomes). For example, 7% of the population in Bangalore (Karnataka State, India) suffers from allergenic rhinitis and over 40% is sensitive to the pollen (Towers and Subba Rao, 1992). Due to its chronic nature, there are reports of it leading to suicide in India (Kololgi et al., 1997). Also, Tanner and Mattocks (1987) hypothesised that Parthenium-contaminated animal feed leads to tainted milk, and that the hepatotoxic parthenin in tainted milk reacts synergistically with copper, causing Indian Childhood Cirrhosis (ICC).

McFadyen (1995) predicted that after 1-10 years exposure to the weed, 10-20% of the population in newly infested areas in Australia will develop severe allergenic rhinitis, hence the cause for concern as parthenium weed spreads southwards into the more densely-populated urban areas of Queensland. A range of other, more serious health disorders have been attributed to parthenium weed, including allergenic eczematous contact dermatitis and bronchial asthma (Evans, 1997a; Kololgi et al., 1997). In Ethiopia, individuals hand weeding or hoeing in Parthenium-infested crops were reported to suffer from skin allergies, itching, fever and asthma (Taye, 2002). Affected individuals have no alternative except to leave the area. Therefore, it must be concluded that parthenium weed causes significant socio-economic damage in Parthenium-invaded countries. 

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Conflict
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • 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
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Allelopathic
  • Causes allergic responses
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Induces hypersensitivity
  • Poisoning
  • Pollen swamping
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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Like many other weeds, parthenium weed also has beneficial aspects, and the search for a more effective utilization of parthenium weed will enable effective management on one hand and may provide productive uses instead of eradication on the other hand. Ramaswami (1997) and Seier and Djeddour (2000) reviewed the potential uses of parthenium weed.

Parthenium weed is used in its native neotropics as a herbal remedy for various intestinal and skin disorders using a decoction of boiled roots (Dominguez and Sierra, 1970). It has potential medicinal properties due to antitumor (Mew et al., 1982) and antiamoebic activities (Sharma and Bhutani, 1988).

The application of parthenium weed compost and green leaf manure was reported to lower weed populations in rice. This was due to the role of allelopathic compounds present in it (Sudhakar, 1984), an increase in soil moisture due to the build-up of soil organic carbon (Son, 1995), increased soil N, P and K content (Bharati et al., 2001), and a reduced incidence of pests in rice such as stem borers and leaf rollers (Ramaswami, 1997). Parthenium weed is also potentially a rich source of potash (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).

The allelopathic substances present in parthenium weed have been proposed as a source of insecticide (Parsons and Cuthebertson, 1992; Hiremath and Ahn, 1997), herbicide (Mersie and Singh, 1987; Pandy et al., 1993; Batish et al., 2002), fungicide (Ganeshan and Jayachandra, 1993), and nematicide (Azam et al. 2001; Prasad et al., 2002). Dwivedi et al. (2000) and Sharma et al. (2003) reported that parthenium weed extract has 95% repellency and oviposition deterrent properties against Callosobruchus chinensis in chick pea grains. A larval mortality of greater than 50% has been recorded in 2% concentration for Helicoverpa armigera (Sundararajan, 2002) and a significant decrease in life span and progeny production of the mustard aphid, Lipaphis erysimi, was reported (Sohal et al., 2002). Extract of parthenium weed was also found to significantly inhibit the growth of bacterial spot pathogen (Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. vesicatoria) infecting Capsicum frutescens (Sree and Sreeramulu, 2002).

Additional uses include as a foliar supplementation of the leaf water extract of parthenium weed on mulberry leaves stimulated silkworms to feed and utilize them more efficiently, resulting in vigorous growth of larvae, pupa cocoons and silk yield (Patil, 1997; Singhal et al., 1998). Production of oxalic acid (Mane et al., 1986) and biogas (Gunaseelan, 1987; Abubacker et al., 1999; Thakur and Singh, 2000, 2003) from parthenium has been reported. In India, it is considered to be an exploitable source of easily extractable, high quality protein for stock feed (Savangikar and Joshi, 1978).

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Agroforestry
  • Soil improvement

Materials

  • Green manure
  • Mulches
  • Pesticide
  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Parthenium weed may be confused with ragweeds (Ambrosia spp.), especially during the rosette or vegetative stage, but can be distinguished from these species, which have opposite leaves in the early stages of growth, by the longitudinally-grooved stem. At the flowering stage, there can be no confusion, since the small white flower heads of parthenium weed, borne in much-branched terminal panicles, are readily distinguished from the greenish, spike-like racemes of Ambrosia.

Prevention and Control

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Prevention

As parthenium weed seed can be spread via flowing water or can be blown by the wind, the prevention of spread might be difficult. Seed production should be prevented by destroying the plants before flowering or seed setting. The seed can also stay for years in the soil seed bank and the continuous removal of the weed is required until the seed bank is depleted.

The spread of seed through the trading and transport of goods, animals grazing on infested fields, and the transportation of sand, soil and compost from infested areas to uninfested areas, are potential risks for further spread and hence should be controlled through quarantine.

Parthenium weed is declared noxious throughout Queensland, Australia (Navie et al., 1996). It is categorized as P2 (where it must be destroyed) throughout the whole state except in specified areas where it is designated P3 and P4 (where infestations are to be reduced and prevented from spreading). In Queensland, parthenium weed seed is declared under the Agricultural Standards Act, which prevents the sale of commercial seed containing prohibited seed (Genn, 1987). Legislation has also been enacted to prevent the movement of vehicles carrying parthenium weed seed from Queensland to New South Wales, Australia and penalties have been imposed to deter the illegal entry of such vehicles (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). It is a declared noxious weed in Puerto Rico (USDA-ARS, 2008) and in South Africa (Henderson, 2001). However, such prevention and quarantine activities are not exercised in many other countries and the weed is progressing in its invasion from continent to continent and country to country.

Control

Physical/mechanical control

Physical removal by hand-pulling poses health risks and has not been recommended in Australia (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Mechanical treatments, such as grading, mowing, slashing and ploughing are also considered inappropriate since they may promote seed dispersal as well as rapid regeneration from lateral shoots close to the ground (Gupta and Sharma, 1977; Navie et al., 1996). Fire has been used to control the first flush of emergent weeds at the beginning of the rains in Australia but is only considered to be a short-term control measure (Holman, 1981). A study by Vogler et al. (2002) showed that fire created open niches in the landscape, into which larger number of parthenium seeds were able to germinate in the absence of vegetation. Therefore, management of parthenium weed in pastures through burning is not considered to be an option.

Biological control

Biological control has been, and continues to be, considered the best long-term or sustainable solution to the parthenium weed problem in Australia (Haseler, 1976; McFadyen, 1992) and because of the vast areas and the socio-economics involved, this approach has also been proposed for India (Singh, 1997).

Searches for, and evaluation of, coevolved natural enemies have been conducted in the neotropics since 1977. So far, nine insect species and two fungal pathogens have been introduced into Australia as classical biological control agents (Julien, 1992; McClay et al., 1995; Navie et al., 1996; Dhileepan and McFadyen, 1997; Evans, 1997a). The rust fungus, Puccinia abrupta var. partheniicola, is a prominent natural enemy in the semi-arid uplands of Mexico (Evans, 1987a, b), but since its release in Queensland in 1992, climatic conditions have been largely unfavourable (Evans, 1997a, b). It was accidentally introduced into Kenya (Evans, 1987a) and Ethiopia in mid-altitudes (1400-2500 masl) with disease incidence up to 100% in some locations (Taye et al., 2002a). Screening of another rust species (Puccinia melampodii) from Mexico was carried out (Evans, 1997b; Seier et al., 1997) and released in the summer of 1999/2000 (PAG, 2000). Whereas, in India, the mycoherbicide potential of plurivorous fungal pathogens belonging to the genera Fusarium, Colletotrichum, Curvularia,Myrothecium and Sclerotium, has and is being evaluated (Mishra et al., 1995; Evans, 1997a). Parthenium phyllody disease caused by the phytoplasma of faba bean phyllody group (FBP) was reported to reduce seed production by 85% (Taye et al., 2002b) and is being evaluated for use as a biological control agent in Ethiopia.

Among the established insect biocontrol agents, the leaf-feeding beetle, Zygogramma bicolorata, the stem-galling moth, Epiblema strenuana, the stem-boring beetle, Listronotus setosipennis, and the seed-feeding weevil, Smicronyx lutulentus, are proving to be the most successful when climatic factors are favourable (McFadyen, 1992; Dhileepan and McFadyen, 1997; Evans, 1997a). Some control of parthenium weed has also been achieved in India with Z. bicolorata (Jayanth and Visalakshy, 1994; Singh, 1997; Sarkate and Parwar, 2006), although there has been controversy concerning its taxonomy and host specificity (Jayanth et al., 1993; Singh, 1997). More recently, Z. bicolorata and L. setosipennis have been released in South Africa and S. lutulentus is being evaluated under quarantine.

Chemical control

A range of herbicides including atrazine, dicamba, 2,4-D, picloram and glyphosate, all applied at high volume, have been employed successfully in Queensland, Australia (Haseler, 1976). However, chemical control over the enormous areas infested by parthenium weed in Queensland is economically unviable and non-sustainable (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992), as well as environmentally undesirable (Navie et al., 1996). In India, the economics of spraying are even more untenable. Nevertheless, in Australia, spot spraying with atrazine plus a non-ionic surfactant is recommended as a pre-emergence treatment. Post-emergence control has been achieved with 2,4-D, often in combination with picloram (Navie et al., 1996), whilst low rates of glyphosate have proven to be effective in coffee plantations in Kenya (Njoroge, 1989).

Some of the newer herbicides, such as imazapyr, oxadiazon, oxyfluorfen, pendimethalin and thiobencarb, have also been reported to be highly effective against parthenium weed (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Imazethapyr is particularly effective as a pre-emergence treatment in green gram (Tewari et al., 2004). Bromoxynil + MCPA was the most effective of a range of post-emergence treatments tested by Javaid (2007). Glyphosate, glufosinate, chlorimuron and trifloxysulfuron applied at the rosette stage provided greater than 93% control, while halosulfuron, MSMA, bromoxynil, 2,4-D, and flumioxazin gave 58-90% control (Reddy et al., 2007), and norflurazon and clomazone were also highly effective.

Lorenzi (1984) indicates susceptibility to acifluorfen, ametryne, atrazine, bentazon, bifenox, cyanazine, dicamba, diquat, diuron, 2,4-D, fomesafen, glyphosate, ioxynil, linuron, metribuzin, molinate, napropamide, oxadiazon, oxyfluorfen, paraquat, prometryne, simazine and tebuthiuron, while there is moderate to total resistance to alachlor, asulam, butachlor, butylate, EPTC, oryzalin, pendimethalin, trifluralin and vernolate. However, in Brazil, herbicide resistance has developed in relation to the ALS-inhibiting herbicides, i.e. imidazolinones (imazethapyr), triazolopyrimidines (cloransulam-methyl), sulfonylureas (chlorimuron-ethyl and iodosulfuron-methyl-sodium plus foramsulfuron. In these areas, 2,4-D is used as an alternative (Gazziero et al., 2006).

Antagonistic plants

The use of antagonistic, competitor plants, such as Cassia spp. and Tagetes spp., has been recommended to control and replace P. hysterophorus in India (Mahadevappa and Ramaiah, 1988; Evans, 1997a; Mahadevappa, 1997; Singh, 1997). In Australia, Bowen et al. (2007) tested a number of grass and legume species against the growth of parthenium weed plants and identified further species that could suppress weed growth. Recently, Khan et al. (2013) tested a number of native and introduced pasture species and identified several of them to be suppressive against parthenium weed in both glasshouse and field conditions. The sowing of selected pasture plants in infested areas can suppress the growth of parthenium weed by as much as 80% and also provide improved fodder for stock (Adkins et al. 2012). Shabbir et al. (2013) showed that the suppressive plants and biological control agents can act synergistically to significantly reduce both the biomass and seed production of parthenium weed under field conditions. The suppressive plants strategy is easy to apply, sustainable over time, profitable under a wide range of environmental conditions and promotes native plant biodiversity.

IPM

In many locations parthenium weed is able to survive individually-applied management measures, and a more effective integrated approach is therefore required in these locations. A holistic IPM approach is propounded in India to achieve sustainable management of parthenium weed (Mahadevappa, 1997), and implemented in Australia through improved extension strategies (Navie et al., 1996; Chamala et al., 1997). Nav-Bahr and Bahar (2000) proposed ploughing before flower set and burning when the plants are dry and mature, application of atrazine or other herbicides like 2,4-D, paraquat, glyphosate diuron and dalapon, using Cassia sericea to displace parthenium weed, and biocontrol using Zygograma bicolorata.

References

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