Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Amaranthus spinosus
(spiny amaranth)

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Datasheet

Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Amaranthus spinosus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • spiny amaranth
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. spinosus is a serious weed in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. For instance, it is a troublesome weed in agricultural areas, pastures, and orchards in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and the Pacific region. In those regi...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing inflorescence. Waihee, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2007.
TitleHabit
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing inflorescence. Waihee, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2007.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing inflorescence. Waihee, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2007.
HabitAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing inflorescence. Waihee, Maui, Hawaii, USA. February 2007.©Forest & Kim Starr-2007 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, in residential backyard. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. May 2008.
TitleHabit
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, in residential backyard. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. May 2008.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, in residential backyard. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. May 2008.
HabitAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, in residential backyard. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. May 2008.©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. USA.
TitleHabit
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. USA.
Copyright©John D. Byrd/Mississippi State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. USA.
HabitAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. USA.©John D. Byrd/Mississippi State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
TitleHabit.
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
Habit.Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing leaves, spines and seeds. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
TitleHabit
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing leaves, spines and seeds. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing leaves, spines and seeds. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.
HabitAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing leaves, spines and seeds. Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. June 2008.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing characteristic spiny stems. Around residences on Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. May 2008.
TitleHabit
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing characteristic spiny stems. Around residences on Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. May 2008.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing characteristic spiny stems. Around residences on Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. May 2008.
HabitAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing characteristic spiny stems. Around residences on Sand Island, Midway Atoll, Hawaii, USA. May 2008.©Forest & Kim Starr-2008 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); flowers and stem. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February 2005.
TitleFlowers
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); flowers and stem. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February 2005.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2005 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); flowers and stem. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February 2005.
FlowersAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); flowers and stem. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February 2005.©Forest & Kim Starr-2005 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); seeds. Note scale. USA.
TitleSeeds
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); seeds. Note scale. USA.
Copyright©Bruce Ackley/The Ohio State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); seeds. Note scale. USA.
SeedsAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); seeds. Note scale. USA.©Bruce Ackley/The Ohio State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); seedling. Kawela Bridge, Molokai, Hawaii, USA. April 2012.
TitleSeedling
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); seedling. Kawela Bridge, Molokai, Hawaii, USA. April 2012.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2012 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); seedling. Kawela Bridge, Molokai, Hawaii, USA. April 2012.
SeedlingAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); seedling. Kawela Bridge, Molokai, Hawaii, USA. April 2012.©Forest & Kim Starr-2012 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, usa. November 2006.
TitleHabit
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, usa. November 2006.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, usa. November 2006.
HabitAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit. Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, usa. November 2006.©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing white-flushed leaves Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
TitleLeaves
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing white-flushed leaves Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing white-flushed leaves Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.
LeavesAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); habit, showing white-flushed leaves Kahului Airport, Maui, Hawaii, USA. November 2006.©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 4.0
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); leaves alternate, broadly lanceolate to ovate, discolorous, up to 7 cm long, 4 cm wide, margins entire, base tapering to a slender petiole up to 7 cm long, with a pair of straight spines up to 1 cm long at base.
TitleLeaves and inflorescence
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); leaves alternate, broadly lanceolate to ovate, discolorous, up to 7 cm long, 4 cm wide, margins entire, base tapering to a slender petiole up to 7 cm long, with a pair of straight spines up to 1 cm long at base.
Copyright©S.D. Sawant
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); leaves alternate, broadly lanceolate to ovate, discolorous, up to 7 cm long, 4 cm wide, margins entire, base tapering to a slender petiole up to 7 cm long, with a pair of straight spines up to 1 cm long at base.
Leaves and inflorescenceAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); leaves alternate, broadly lanceolate to ovate, discolorous, up to 7 cm long, 4 cm wide, margins entire, base tapering to a slender petiole up to 7 cm long, with a pair of straight spines up to 1 cm long at base.©S.D. Sawant
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); inflorescences long, slender, terminal, with ancillary spikes in clusters, greenish; flowers unisexual, straw-coloured.
TitleInflorescence
CaptionAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); inflorescences long, slender, terminal, with ancillary spikes in clusters, greenish; flowers unisexual, straw-coloured.
Copyright©S.D. Sawant
Amaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); inflorescences long, slender, terminal, with ancillary spikes in clusters, greenish; flowers unisexual, straw-coloured.
InflorescenceAmaranthus spinosus (spiny amaranth); inflorescences long, slender, terminal, with ancillary spikes in clusters, greenish; flowers unisexual, straw-coloured.©S.D. Sawant

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Amaranthus spinosus L.

Preferred Common Name

  • spiny amaranth

Other Scientific Names

  • Amaranthus caracasanus Kunth
  • Amaranthus diacanthus Raf.
  • Galliaria spinosa (L.) Nieuwel.
  • Galliaria spitosa (L.) Nieuwl.

International Common Names

  • English: calaloo; needle burr; pigweed; prickly calaloo; prickly callau; prickly caterpillar; spiny amaranthus; spiny calaloo; spiny pigweed; sticker weed; thorny pigweed; wild callau
  • Spanish: bledo; bledo de espina; bledo espinoso; quelite espinoso
  • French: amarante épineuse; blette épineuse; brèche de Malabar; epinard malabre
  • Chinese: ci xian; tsz-hsien

Local Common Names

  • Argentina: ataco espinudo
  • Bahamas: calalue; spiny amaranth
  • Bangladesh: katanata
  • Brazil: bredo de espino; caruru de espino; caruru-bravo; caruru-de-espinho
  • Cambodia: phti banla
  • Cuba: bledo espinoso
  • El Salvador: bledo; blero; huisquilite
  • Ethiopia: aluma
  • Germany: Amarant, Dorn-; Fuchsschwanz, Dorniger; Malabar-Spinat
  • Haiti: epinard piquard; epinard sauvage; zépina piquant; zépinard piquant
  • India: bajra; chauli; kataili; kataneatia
  • Indonesia: bayam eri; bayem cikron; senggang cucuk
  • Japan: haribiyu
  • Lesser Antilles: zépinna wouj
  • Malaysia: bayam duri
  • Mauritius: brede malabar a piquants; oseille; petit trefle; trefle
  • Mexico: quelite
  • Myanmar: hin-nu-nive-tsu-bauk; tsu-gyi
  • Nigeria: tete elegun
  • Peru: yuyo macho
  • Philippines: akum; alayon; ayantoto; gitin-giting; kalitis; kalunai; orai; tadtad
  • Puerto Rico: blero espinoso
  • South Africa: doring misbredie
  • Thailand: pak-khom-nam
  • Venezuela: pira brave
  • Vietnam: dén gai
  • Zimbabwe: imbowa; mohwa-gura

EPPO code

  • AMASP (Amaranthus spinosus)

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. spinosus is a serious weed in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. For instance, it is a troublesome weed in agricultural areas, pastures, and orchards in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and the Pacific region. In those regions, it is also a serious environmental weed in disturbed sites, secondary forests, along forest edges, and around water troughs (Lemmens and Bunyapraphatsara, 1999; Motooka et al., 2003; PIER, 2015; PROTA, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015). The plant has large thorns which make it unpalatable for grazing livestock and make weeding difficult in parts of the world where hand weeding and harvest are done by hand. Like other amaranths, it produces large numbers of seeds, which can mature after the plant has been cut, and remain viable for long periods.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Caryophyllales
  •                         Family: Amaranthaceae
  •                             Genus: Amaranthus
  •                                 Species: Amaranthus spinosus

Description

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Plants glabrous or sparsely pubescent in the distal younger parts of stems and branches. Stems erect or sometimes ascending proximally, much-branched and bushy, rarely nearly simple, 0.3-1(-2) m; each node with paired, divergent spines (modified bracts) to 1.5(-2.5) cm. Leaves: petiole ± equaling or longer than blade; blade rhombic-ovate, ovate, or ovate-lanceolate, 3-10(-15) × 1.5-6 cm, base broadly cuneate, margins entire, plane or slightly undulate, apex acute or subobtuse. Inflorescences simple or compound terminal staminate spikes and axillary subglobose mostly pistillate clusters, erect or with reflexed or nodding tips, usually green to silvery green. Bracts of pistillate flowers lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, shorter than tepals, apex attenuate. Pistillate flowers: tepals 5, obovate-lanceolate or spatulate-lanceolate, equal or subequal, 1.2-2 mm, apex mucronate; styles erect or spreading; stigmas 3. Staminate flowers: often terminal or in proximal glomerules; tepals 5, equal or subequal, 1.7-2.5 mm; stamens 5. Utricles ovoid to subglobose, 1.5-2.5 mm, membranaceous proximally, wrinkled and spongy or inflated distally, irregularly dehiscent or indehiscent. Seeds black, lenticular or subglobose, 0.7-1 mm diameter, smooth, shiny (Flora of North America, 2015).

The striated, often reddish, stem with two sharp, long spines at the base of the petioles, and the fruit which opens by a line around the centre are distinguishing characteristics of this species.

Plant Type

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Annual
Herbaceous
Seed propagated

Distribution

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The native distribution range of A. spinosus is uncertain. It is probably a native of tropical America and was introduced into other warmer parts of the world. It extends into the temperate zone in Japan and the USA. It is a problem weed principally around the Caribbean Sea, the west and south of Africa, around the Bay of Bengal and in East and South-East Asia from Japan to Indonesia. With minor exceptions its range extends from latitude 30°N to 30°S (Holm et al., 1991).

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.

Last updated: 25 Feb 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

AngolaPresent
BeninPresent
BotswanaPresentIntroduced
BurundiPresentIntroduced
CameroonPresent
Côte d'IvoirePresent
EgyptPresentIntroduced
EswatiniPresentIntroduced
EthiopiaPresent
GambiaPresent
GhanaPresent, Widespread
GuineaPresentIntroduced
Guinea-BissauPresentIntroduced
KenyaPresent
LiberiaPresent
MadagascarPresent
MalawiPresentIntroduced
MaliPresent
MauritiusPresentIntroducedInvasive
-RodriguesPresentIntroducedInvasive
MozambiquePresentIntroduced
NamibiaPresentIntroduced
NigerPresent
NigeriaPresent
SenegalPresent
South AfricaPresent
SudanPresent
TanzaniaPresent
TogoPresent
UgandaPresentIntroduced
ZambiaPresentIntroduced
ZimbabwePresentIntroduced

Asia

BangladeshPresent
BhutanPresent
CambodiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
ChinaPresent
-AnhuiPresentIntroduced
-FujianPresentIntroduced
-GuangdongPresentIntroduced
-GuangxiPresentIntroduced
-GuizhouPresentIntroduced
-HebeiPresentIntroduced
-HubeiPresentIntroduced
-HunanPresentIntroduced
-JiangsuPresentIntroduced
-JiangxiPresentIntroduced
-ShaanxiPresentIntroduced
-ShanxiPresentIntroduced
-SichuanPresentIntroduced
-YunnanPresentIntroduced
-ZhejiangPresentIntroduced
Hong KongPresent
IndiaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-KeralaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-OdishaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-PunjabPresent
-RajasthanPresent
-SikkimPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
-Uttar PradeshPresent
-UttarakhandPresent
-West BengalPresent
IndonesiaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasive
-JavaPresent
IsraelPresentIntroducedCasual
JapanPresentIntroducedInvasive
LaosPresent
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
MaldivesPresentIntroducedInvasive
MyanmarPresent
NepalPresent
North KoreaPresentIntroduced
PakistanPresentIntroducedListed as casual in temperate regions of the country and as a weed elsewhere
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedInvasive
SingaporePresentIntroducedInvasive
South KoreaPresentIntroduced
Sri LankaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
TaiwanPresentIntroducedInvasive
ThailandPresentIntroducedInvasive
TurkeyPresent
VietnamPresentIntroducedInvasive

Europe

AustriaPresentIntroducedCasual
BelgiumPresentIntroducedCasual
BulgariaPresentIntroducedCasual
CyprusPresentIntroducedCasual
CzechiaPresentIntroducedCasual
DenmarkPresentIntroducedCasual
FrancePresentCasual
-CorsicaPresentIntroducedCasual
GreecePresentIntroducedCasual
HungaryPresentIntroducedCasual
ItalyPresentIntroducedCasual
LatviaPresentIntroducedCasual
MoldovaPresentIntroducedCasual
North MacedoniaPresentIntroducedCasual
PortugalPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-MadeiraPresentIntroducedInvasive
RussiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Russia (Europe)PresentIntroduced
SpainPresentIntroducedInvasive
SwedenPresentIntroducedCasual
UkrainePresentIntroducedCasual

North America

Antigua and BarbudaPresentNative
BahamasPresentNative
BarbadosPresentNative
BelizePresentNative
Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba
-Sint EustatiusPresentNative
British Virgin IslandsPresentNativeTortola, Virgin Gorda
CanadaPresent
-ManitobaPresentIntroduced
-OntarioPresentIntroduced
Cayman IslandsPresentNative
Costa RicaPresentNative
CubaPresentIntroducedInvasive
DominicaPresentNative
Dominican RepublicPresentNative
El SalvadorPresent
GrenadaPresentNative
GuadeloupePresentNative
HaitiPresent
HondurasPresent
JamaicaPresent
MartiniquePresentNative
MexicoPresent, Widespread
MontserratPresentNative
Netherlands AntillesPresentNative
NicaraguaPresent
PanamaPresent
Puerto RicoPresent
Saint LuciaPresentNative
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentNative
Sint MaartenPresentNative
U.S. Virgin IslandsPresentNativeSt Croix, St Thomas
United StatesPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaPresent
-ArkansasPresent
-CaliforniaPresentNative
-ConnecticutPresent
-DelawarePresent
-District of ColumbiaPresentNative
-FloridaPresent
-GeorgiaPresent
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedInvasive
-IllinoisPresent
-IndianaPresent
-IowaPresent
-KansasPresent
-KentuckyPresent
-LouisianaPresent
-MainePresent
-MarylandPresent
-MassachusettsPresent
-MichiganPresent
-MinnesotaPresent
-MississippiPresent
-MissouriPresent
-NebraskaPresent
-New HampshirePresent
-New JerseyPresent
-New YorkPresent
-North CarolinaPresent
-OhioPresent
-OklahomaPresent
-PennsylvaniaPresent
-Rhode IslandPresent
-South CarolinaPresent
-TennesseePresent
-TexasPresent
-VermontPresent
-VirginiaPresent
-West VirginiaPresent
-WisconsinPresent

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedInvasive
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedInvasive
Christmas IslandPresentIntroducedInvasive
Federated States of MicronesiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
FijiPresent
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
GuamPresentIntroducedInvasive
KiribatiPresentIntroducedInvasive
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasive
NauruPresentIntroducedInvasive
New CaledoniaPresent
New ZealandPresent
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasive
PalauPresentIntroducedInvasive
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedInvasive
SamoaPresent
Solomon IslandsPresent
U.S. Minor Outlying IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasiveMidway Atoll, Sand Island
-Johnston AtollPresentIntroducedInvasive
VanuatuPresentIntroducedInvasive

South America

ArgentinaPresentProbably native
BoliviaPresentNative
BrazilPresent
-AcrePresent
-AlagoasPresent
-AmazonasPresent
-BahiaPresent
-CearaPresent
-Espirito SantoPresent
-Fernando de NoronhaPresent
-GoiasPresent
-MaranhaoPresent
-Mato GrossoPresent
-Mato Grosso do SulPresent
-Minas GeraisPresent
-ParaPresent
-ParaibaPresent
-ParanaPresent
-PernambucoPresent
-PiauiPresent
-Rio de JaneiroPresent
-Rio Grande do NortePresent
-Rio Grande do SulPresent
-Santa CatarinaPresent
-Sao PauloPresent
-TocantinsPresentIntroducedNaturalizedNaturalized
ChilePresent
ColombiaPresentNative
EcuadorPresentNative
-Galapagos IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasive
French GuianaPresentNative and IntroducedListed as both native and introduced
GuyanaPresentNative and IntroducedListed as both native and introduced
PeruPresent
SurinamePresentNative and IntroducedListed as both native and introduced
VenezuelaPresent

History of Introduction and Spread

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It has been suggested that A. spinosus originates from lowland tropical South and Central America, and that it was introduced in other warmer parts of the world from about 1700 AD onwards (Lemmens and Bunyapraphatsara, 1999). Nowadays it is rarely cultivated and grows principally as a weed in crops, pastures and orchards. Thus, it is likely that it has been introduced accidentally as a contaminant in crop and pasture seeds and in agricultural machinery (PROTA, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015). In Cuba, it appears in herbarium collections made in 1900 in Havana and Isla Juventud (US National Herbarium). In Hawaii it was introduced in 1928 (Motooka et al., 2003). 

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction of A. spinosus is potentially high. This species is a cosmopolitan weed and a prolific seed producer: up to 235, 000 seeds per plant have been recorded. Seeds are easily disturbed by wind, water, and animals. Consequently, the potential of this species to spread and colonize new habitats, especially in disturbed sites and waste ground, is very high. 

Habitat

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A. spinosus is found in cultivated fields, waste places, roadsides, garbage heaps and abandoned fields. It will grow both in wet or dry sites, but grows best when soil moisture levels are below field capacity. Waterlogging retards its growth. Maximum growth is obtained on soils that are high in organic matter, loamy in texture and that have sufficient nitrogen (Holm et al., 1977).

A. spinosus often grows as a weed in crops, pastures, orchards, disturbed ground, along roadsides, and in secondary forests (Waterhouse, 1994). It grows in arid lowlands and moist uplands on the Galapagos Islands (McMullen, 1999). In Australia, it grows as an environmental weed in disturbed areas and rainforest and as an agricultural weed in areas from near sea level to 820 m (Lazarides et al., 1997). 

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanks Present, no further details Natural
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalArid regions Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalArid regions Present, no further details Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number reported for A. spinosus is 2n = 34, 68 (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015). The genetic variability of A. spinosus is great because of its large area of distribution and its wide ecological adaptation (PROTA, 2015).

Reproductive Biology

A. spinosus is a monoecious herb and produces male and female flowers on the same plant. This species is self-compatible and flowers are pollinated by wind (Waterhouse, 1994). A single plant produces several hundred thousand seeds, a large proportion of which are fertile.

Longevity

A. spinosus is an annual fast-growing herb. Many seeds germinate soon after being dispersed, but some seeds can remain viable for many years in the soil seed bank (Waterhouse, 1994). For example, the seed of some types will germinate within a few days after harvest if held at a high temperature, whereas others require 4-5 months of storage before they will germinate. Germination is satisfactory in both light and dark (Holm et al., 1991).

Environmental Requirements

The photoperiodic response is day-neutral and the plant may flower at day lengths between 8 and 16 h. Overall optimum growth is obtained at a day length of 11-12 h, and it is in areas with such day lengths that the earliest and most abundant flowering takes place. A. spinosus does not grow well in shade or cool temperatures, because spine development and flowering are suppressed under these conditions. Maximum growth occurs in soils high in organic matter, and those with sufficient nitrogen (Holm et al., 1977). A. spinosus is capable of growing on wet soils as well. It is drought-resistant and can even grow under arid conditions. Conclusive evidence is lacking, but there are indications that several different ecological populations exist in some regions of the world (Misra, 1969).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 12 35

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall5002000mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Cassida exilis Herbivore Plants|Leaves
Cletus fuscescens Herbivore Plants|Growing point; Plants|Leaves
Coleophora versurella Herbivore Plants|Growing point
Eretmocera impactella Herbivore Plants|Leaves
Germalus unipunctatus Herbivore Plants|Leaves
Haplopeodes minutus Herbivore Plants|Leaves
Haplothrips longisetosus Herbivore Plants|Leaves; Plants|Stems
Hypolixus ritsemae Parasite Plants|Stems
Hypolixus truncatulus Parasite Plants|Stems
Nysius Herbivore Plants|Leaves
pigweed mosaic virus Pathogen Plants|Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

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A. spinosus is attacked by a number of natural enemies. Most of the reports come from outside its range and are of non-specific organisms; some, however, may be sufficiently specific for potential biological control (Waterhouse, 1994; El-Aydam and Burki, 1997). A. spinosus is a host plant for tobacco mosaic virus, groundnut rosette virus, cucumber mosaic virus and root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.), which attack some commercial crops. Natural insect enemies includes the pyralid Herpetogramma bipunctalis and the curculionid Conotrachelus seniculus. In India, the bud weevil Ceutorhynchus asperulus, a pest of pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), has been found feeding on A. spinosus (Lemmens and Bunyapraphatsara, 1999).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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A. spinosus spreads by seeds. This species is a prolific seed producer and one plant can produce up to 235,000 seeds. Seeds are dispersed by wind, water and as a contaminant in crop and pasture seeds, farm machinery and farm products. For example, Japanese authorities report A. spinosus as a contaminant of imported animal feed grains (Kurokawa, 2001).

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesPotential seed contaminant Yes USDA-ARS (2015)
Land vehiclesSeeds Yes USDA-ARS (2015)
Machinery and equipmentSeeds Yes USDA-ARS (2015)
WaterSeeds Yes Yes Waterhouse (1994)

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Positive and negative
Human health Positive and negative

Economic Impact

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A. spinosus is reported to be the number three weed in maize in the Philippines as well as a principal weed in that crop in Ghana, Hawaii, Mexico and Thailand, and a common weed in Malaysia and Taiwan. In cotton, it is ranked number one in Thailand, principal in Nicaragua and the USA, and as a common weed in Mozambique. In groundnuts, it is a principal weed in Ghana, Hawaii, the Philippines and the USA. In sugarcane, it is a principal weed in Brazil, South Africa and Taiwan and a common weed in Hawaii, India, Indonesia and Peru. In upland rice, A. spinosus is the principal weed in Mexico and the Philippines, and a common weed in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia (Holm et al., 1991).

A. spinosus is a principal weed of mangoes, sorghum, soyabeans and cowpeas in the Philippines; tobacco in Taiwan, beans in Mexico, vegetables in Malaysia, oil palms in Indonesia, papayas and sweet potatoes in Hawaii, mulberries in Japan, and cassava in Ghana. It is a common weed of bananas in Taiwan, oil palms in Nicaragua, pineapples in Hawaii, vegetables in Brazil, Ghana, Hawaii, India, the Philippines and the USA, and of tea and jute in Taiwan. It is found in millet in the Philippines, coffee in Angola and El Salvador, and pineapples in the Philippines (Holm et al., 1991).

Risk to Livestock

A. spinosus was implicated in a case of livestock poisoning in 1973 when 39 dairy cows died after being fed chopped forage sorghum containing as much as 25-33% (by weight) of the weed. The poisoning was diagnosed as being caused by nitrate, and A. spinosus showed high nitrate levels. Hurst (1942) and Kingsbury (1964) both mention A. spinosus as a suspected poisonous plant.

Environmental Impact

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A. spinosus has the potential to outcompete native vegetation and induce the loss of biodiversity, especially decreasing floristic richness in native vegetation communities where is becoming dominant and invasive such as insular ecosystems and native grasslands. 

Risk and Impact Factors

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Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Host damage
  • Loss of medicinal resources
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Hybridization
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid growth
  • Produces spines, thorns or burrs
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field

Uses

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In tropical Africa and elsewhere, A. spinosus leaves and young plants are collected for home consumption as a cooked, steamed or fried vegetable, especially during periods of drought. Leaves are occasionally found for sale on markets. However, its use is declining, and it is acquiring the status of a famine food. It has a bitter taste and is usually eaten in small quantities as a substitute when no other vegetables are available.

A. spinosus is also used as forage and said to increase the yield of milk in cattle. It is browsed by sheep and goats and is a highly nutritious feed at any time during the year. However, the spines may cause injury to the mouths of grazing animals and cases of poisoning in cattle have also been reported. 

A. spinosus is also used as a medicinal herb. The root is known as an effective diuretic. In South-East Asia a decoction of the root is used to treat gonorrhea and as a antipyretic. In many countries, the bruised leaves are considered a good emollient and applied externally in cases of eczema, burns, wounds, boils, earache and haemorrhoids. Plant sap is used as an eye wash to treat ophthalmic infections in children. Some tribes in India used A. spinosus to induce abortion (Lemmens and Bunyapraphatsara, 1999; PROTA, 2015). 

Uses List

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Human food and beverage

  • Vegetable

Materials

  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Detection and Inspection

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The striated often reddish stem with two sharp, long spines at the base of the petioles, and the fruit which opens by a line around the centre are distinguishing characteristics of this species.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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A. spinosus is superficially similar to other weedy species of Amaranthus, but is the only species with auxillary spines.

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

A. spinosus is susceptible to most of the standard herbicides used on broad-leaved weeds. These include 2,4-D, EPTC, MCPA, MSMA (methylarsonic acid), acifluorfen, atrazine, bensulfuron, butachlor, chlorthal-dimethyl, dimethametryn, diphenamid, diuron, glyphosate, metribuzin, oxadiazon, oxyfluorfen, paraquat, pendimethalin, propanil and trifluralin (Kostermans et al., 1987; Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987; Ampong-Nyarko and de Datta, 1991). Ampong-Nyarko and de Datta (1991) indicate resistance to fenoxaprop, piperophos and thiobencarb. It should also be noted that repeated herbicide use has resulted in the development of resistant strains in some species of Amaranthus (Lorenzi and Jeffery, 1987), and the same could occur in A. spinosus.

In groundnuts, A. spinosus is usually controlled with soil-applied herbicides (Grichar, 1994). Post-emergence control can be obtained with acifluorfen alone or in combination with bentazone; lactofen alone, or 2,4-DB alone applied late post-emergence provided more than 80% control when rated early in the season (Grichar, 1994). Lactofen applied early post-emergence and 2,4-DB applied late post-emergence controlled more than 90% late in the season. Imazethapyr controlled 72-90% of A. spinosus, whereas bentazone and pyridate failed to provide adequate control (Grichar, 1994). In Korea, Lee et al. (2007) found pendimethalin on its own ineffective in pastures, but pendimethalin combined with mecocrop, mecocrop alone, or dicamba, gave good control.

Biological Control

In Thailand, augmentative releases of Hypolixus truncatulus have resulted in successful control. This beetle may replace the use of herbicides to control occasional infestations (Julien, 1992).

The fungal pathogens Phomopsis amaranthicola and Microsphaeropsis amaranthi have been investigated as potential bioherbicides for weedy amaranths including A. spinosus (Rosskopf et al., 2000; Ortiz-Ribbing and Williams, 2006). Extracts of the plant Murraya paniculata inhibit seed germination of A. spinosus, giving potential for weed control. (Pangnakorn and Poonpaiboonpipattana, 2013). 

References

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01/12/15 Updated by:

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

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