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Datasheet

Salvinia molesta (Kariba weed)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 22 November 2017
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Salvinia molesta
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Kariba weed
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Pteridophyta
  •       Class: Filicopsida
  •         Order: Hydropteridales
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • S. molesta is a free-floating aquatic plant native to south-eastern Brazil. It has been spread widely throughout the world during the past 50 years and is invasive in a variety of aquatic habitats, including la...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Salvinia molesta (kariba weed); leaves short petiolate, in whorls of three, two upper and one lower; upper leaves floating.
TitleLeaves
CaptionSalvinia molesta (kariba weed); leaves short petiolate, in whorls of three, two upper and one lower; upper leaves floating.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Salvinia molesta (kariba weed); leaves short petiolate, in whorls of three, two upper and one lower; upper leaves floating.
LeavesSalvinia molesta (kariba weed); leaves short petiolate, in whorls of three, two upper and one lower; upper leaves floating.©Colin Wilson
Salvinia molesta (kariba weed); plants free floating, green, up to 30cm long, 5cm wide, mat-forming, mat to 2.5cm thick (or much thicker, depending on local conditions).
TitleFoliage
CaptionSalvinia molesta (kariba weed); plants free floating, green, up to 30cm long, 5cm wide, mat-forming, mat to 2.5cm thick (or much thicker, depending on local conditions).
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Salvinia molesta (kariba weed); plants free floating, green, up to 30cm long, 5cm wide, mat-forming, mat to 2.5cm thick (or much thicker, depending on local conditions).
FoliageSalvinia molesta (kariba weed); plants free floating, green, up to 30cm long, 5cm wide, mat-forming, mat to 2.5cm thick (or much thicker, depending on local conditions).©Colin Wilson
Salvinia molesta (kariba weed); plants growing at 100m, Kerala, India.
TitleFoliage
CaptionSalvinia molesta (kariba weed); plants growing at 100m, Kerala, India.
Copyright©S.S. Bir
Salvinia molesta (kariba weed); plants growing at 100m, Kerala, India.
FoliageSalvinia molesta (kariba weed); plants growing at 100m, Kerala, India.©S.S. Bir
Salvinia molesta (kariba weed); infestation growing in waterway south of Darwin, Australia.
TitleInfestation
CaptionSalvinia molesta (kariba weed); infestation growing in waterway south of Darwin, Australia.
Copyright©Bill Parsons
Salvinia molesta (kariba weed); infestation growing in waterway south of Darwin, Australia.
InfestationSalvinia molesta (kariba weed); infestation growing in waterway south of Darwin, Australia.©Bill Parsons
Salvinia molesta (kariba weed); infestation. Thick mats of salvinia cut off light to submerged plants, depressing oxygen concentrations, increasing levels of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide in the waters beneath them. Kakadu National Park, Australian Northern Territory.
TitleInfestation
CaptionSalvinia molesta (kariba weed); infestation. Thick mats of salvinia cut off light to submerged plants, depressing oxygen concentrations, increasing levels of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide in the waters beneath them. Kakadu National Park, Australian Northern Territory.
Copyright©Colin Wilson
Salvinia molesta (kariba weed); infestation. Thick mats of salvinia cut off light to submerged plants, depressing oxygen concentrations, increasing levels of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide in the waters beneath them. Kakadu National Park, Australian Northern Territory.
InfestationSalvinia molesta (kariba weed); infestation. Thick mats of salvinia cut off light to submerged plants, depressing oxygen concentrations, increasing levels of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide in the waters beneath them. Kakadu National Park, Australian Northern Territory. ©Colin Wilson
Cyrtobagous salviniae (salvinia weevil); adult on Salvinia. As a bio-control, this 4mm long weevil is highly effective in reducing giant salvinia infestations.
TitleAdult
CaptionCyrtobagous salviniae (salvinia weevil); adult on Salvinia. As a bio-control, this 4mm long weevil is highly effective in reducing giant salvinia infestations.
Copyright©Scott Bauer/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Cyrtobagous salviniae (salvinia weevil); adult on Salvinia. As a bio-control, this 4mm long weevil is highly effective in reducing giant salvinia infestations.
AdultCyrtobagous salviniae (salvinia weevil); adult on Salvinia. As a bio-control, this 4mm long weevil is highly effective in reducing giant salvinia infestations.©Scott Bauer/USDA Agricultural Research Service/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Salvinia molesta D.S. Mitch.

Preferred Common Name

  • Kariba weed

International Common Names

  • English: African pyle; aquarium water moss; aquarium watermoss; aquarium water-moss; Australian azolla; butterfly fern; cats tongue; giant azolla; giant salvinia; kariba-weed; koi kandy; salvinia; velvet weed; water fern; water spangles; watermoss
  • French: fougère d’eau

Local Common Names

  • Finland: rikkakellussaniainen
  • Germany: Lästiger büschelfarn; Schwimmfarn
  • India: African payal
  • Indonesia: Kayambang
  • Netherlands: drijfplantje
  • South Africa: Water varing
  • Thailand: Chawk hunu

Summary of Invasiveness

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S. molesta is a free-floating aquatic plant native to south-eastern Brazil. It has been spread widely throughout the world during the past 50 years and is invasive in a variety of aquatic habitats, including lakes, rivers and rice paddies. Based on the environmental, economic and human health impacts, S. molesta ranks a close second behind water hyacinth on a list of the world's most noxious aquatic weeds. It has also been recently added onto the list of the world’s 100 most invasive species.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Pteridophyta
  •             Class: Filicopsida
  •                 Order: Hydropteridales
  •                     Family: Salviniaceae
  •                         Genus: Salvinia
  •                             Species: Salvinia molesta

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Salvinia molesta D. S. Mitchell is one of four species that are members of the Salvinia auriculata complex (Mitchelll and Thomas, 1972). Other members include Salvinia auriculata Aubl., Salvinia biloba Raddi., and Salvinia herzogii de la Sota.

Originally identified as a form of S. auriculata, S. molesta was renamed based on its fruiting bodies in 1972 (Mitchell, 1972). Current confusion over probable synonyms include S. auriculata auct. non Aubl. and S. adnata Desv.

An older name, S. adnata Desv., was elevated above S. molesta by De la Sota (1995). However, as other researchers point out, this type cannot be identified using current identification techniques since it is sterile. Most researchers have continued to use the name S. molesta, as recommended by Moran and Smith (1999).

Description

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Plants: perennial, heterosporous herbs, free floating, with microspores and megaspores produced on the same plant, green, up to 30 cm long, 5 cm wide, mat-forming, mat to 2.5 cm thick (or much thicker, depending on local conditions such as water current, waves, etc.); roots absent; stems irregularly branched, pubescent.

Leaves: short petiolate, in whorls of three, two upper and one lower; upper leaves floating, photosynthetic, entire, elliptic-ovate to rounded, with a distinct midvein, aerolate, 0.7-3 cm long, to 1.8 cm wide, apices rounded to emarginate, the aerolae either fairly uniform in size throughout, or inner longer than outer; papillae apex split into several hairs that form a birdcage-like structure which traps an air bubble when submerged, creating a non-wettable upper surface; leaves often folded in half under crowded growth conditions; lower leaves subsessile or petiolate, with or without sporocarps attached, 1.5-2.0 cm long, to 0.5 cm wide, the petiole to 3 cm long, submersed, non-photosynthetic, finely divided into linear segments (feathery), segments appearing as and functioning as roots.

Sporocarps (when present): pubescent, sessile to long-stalked, globose to ovoid, rounded to apiculate at apex, either clustered at apex of submersed leaf or arising alternately in two rows down the length of the submersed leaf similar in size, sessile or stalked, in clusters or rows on lower leaves, the sporocarp wall a modified indusium; microsporocarps inconspicuous, globular, with an internal short column, the columns basal, bearing many microsporangia; microspores minute; megasporocarps inconspicuous, globular, with many megasporangia.

Microsporangia: stalked, with one massula (group of microspores); massulae with 64 microspores.

Megasporangia: sessile, with one megaspore; megaspores to 2 mm long.

Plant Type

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Perennial

Distribution

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S. molesta is native to south-eastern Brazil (Forno, 1983). It has been spread widely throughout the world during the past 50 years and can be found in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, southern USA and some Pacific islands (Thomas and Room, 1986a). 

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

IndiaWidespread Invasive Cook, 1976; Thomas, 1976; Jayanth and Singh, 1993; EPPO, 2014
-UttarakhandPresentIntroducedAnushree Bhattacharjee, 2014
IndonesiaWidespread Invasive Anonymous, 1987; Baki et al., 1990; EPPO, 2014
-JavaPresent Invasive Nguyen, 1976
-KalimantanWidespread Invasive Nguyen, 1976
IsraelPresent, few occurrences Invasive EPPO, 2013; EPPO, 2014Listed as rare
JapanPresentGBIF, 2010; NIES, 2013Okinawa and Hyogo Prefectures
MalaysiaWidespread Invasive Azmi, 1988; Baki et al., 1990; EPPO, 2014Throughout the country except the east coast states
PakistanPresentIntroduced Invasive Pallewatta et al., 2003; Imran et al., 2013Indus delta
Philippines Invasive Pablico et al., 1989; Pallewatta et al., 2003Iloilo, causes problems in rice paddies and waterways
SingaporePresent Invasive Wee, 1986
Sri LankaWidespread1939 Invasive Dias, 1967; Fowler and Holden, 1994; EPPO, 2014
TaiwanPresent Invasive Chen et al., 2008Tungshan, Neipu
ThailandPresent Invasive Gunn and Ritchie, 1982; Pallewatta et al., 2003; Chomchalow, 2011Widespread in southern and central areas

Africa

BeninPresent Invasive Greathead and deGroot, 1993
BotswanaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Mitchell and Tur, 1975; Smith, 1993; ISSG, 2013; EPPO, 2014
Burkina FasoReported present or known to be presentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2007; ISSG, 2013
CameroonPresentGunn and Ritchie, 1982
CongoWidespreadGunn and Ritchie, 1982; EPPO, 2014
Congo Democratic RepublicPresentGunn and Ritchie, 1982; EPPO, 2014
Côte d'IvoirePresentGreathead and deGroot, 1993
GhanaIntroduced, establishedIntroduced Invasive Greathead and deGroot, 1993; ISSG, 2013
KenyaWidespreadIntroduced1984 Invasive Mitchell and Tur, 1975; Njuguna and Thital, 1993; IPPC-Secretariat, 2005; EPPO, 2014
LesothoPresentde Wet, 1993; Greathead and deGroot, 1993
MadagascarPresentISSG, 2007
MalawiPresentde Wet, 1993; Greathead and deGroot, 1993
MaliPresent Invasive Berthe and Kone, 2008
MauritaniaPresentDiop and Hill, 2009Senegal River
MauritiusPresentGBIF, 2010La Prairie, southwest coast of island opposite public beach; freshwater Typha marsh with sedges near sea level
MozambiquePresentde Wet, 1993; Greathead and deGroot, 1993
NamibiaPresentde Wet, 1993; Greathead and deGroot, 1993
NigeriaWidespreadde Wet, 1993; Greathead and deGroot, 1993; EPPO, 2014
RéunionPresent Invasive ISSG, 2007
SenegalPresentIntroduced1999Diop and Hill, 2009Senegal River
South AfricaWidespreadCilliers, 1991; EPPO, 2014
SwazilandPresentde Wet, 1993; Greathead and deGroot, 1993
TanzaniaPresentGreathead and deGroot, 1993; Taylor, 1993
UgandaPresentGreathead and deGroot, 1993
ZambiaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Mitchell and Tur, 1975; ISSG, 2013; EPPO, 2014
ZimbabweWidespreadMarshall, 1993; EPPO, 2014

North America

MexicoPresent Invasive Mora-Olivo and Yatskievych, 2009; GBIF, 2010Along Colorado River and approx. 0.3 km south of Presa Morelos
USAPresent Invasive Jenkins and Lewis, 2012Reported in Washington, DC in 2000
-AlabamaPresent1999 Invasive McFarland et al., 2004; GBIF, 2010Seale and Auburn, resulting from impounded tributary of Sougahatchee Creek
-ArizonaPresent Invasive McFarland et al., 2004; GBIF, 2010Lower Colorado River
-ArkansasPresentPeck, 2011Sulpher Bottoms and Little Rock
-CaliforniaPresent Invasive McFarland et al., 2004; GBIF, 2010Lower Colorado River
-ConnecticutPresentGBIF, 2010Willington
-FloridaPresent1999 Invasive Nelson, 1984; Westbrooks and Eplee, 1989; Chilton et al., 1999; McFarland et al., 2004
-GeorgiaPresentMcFarland et al., 2004; GBIF, 2010
-HawaiiPresent Invasive McFarland et al., 2004; GBIF, 2010Found on Oahu and Hawaii (Big Island)
-KansasPresentGBIF, 2010Wichita
-LouisianaPresentGBIF, 2010Little Lake, Lafayette Parish; Toledo Bend Reservoir, Houma
-MarylandPresent Invasive McFarland et al., 2004
-MississippiPresent1999 Invasive McFarland et al., 2004; GBIF, 2010Moselle
-MissouriPresentMcFarland et al., 2004; GBIF, 2010Jones County, Warren County
-New JerseyPresent Invasive McFarland et al., 2004
-New MexicoPresent Invasive McFarland et al., 2004
-North CarolinaPresentMcFarland et al., 2004; GBIF, 2010; GBIF, 2010; Wesbrooks, 2010
-OklahomaPresent Invasive McFarland et al., 2004
-OregonPresent Invasive McFarland et al., 2004
-PennsylvaniaPresent Invasive McFarland et al., 2004
-South CarolinaEradicatedWestbrooks and deKozlowski, 1996; Westbrooks and deKozlowski, 1996
-TexasPresentGBIF, 2010Robertson County; Toledo Bend Reservoir, private nursery in Galveston County
-VirginiaPresentHoward, 2010
-WashingtonPresent Invasive McFarland et al., 2004

Central America and Caribbean

CubaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
GuatemalaPresentGBIF, 2010Finca Carolina, approx. 7.5 miles due west of Mariscos on Lake Izabel
Trinidad and TobagoWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014

South America

ArgentinaWidespreadGunn and Ritchie, 1982; EPPO, 2014
BrazilWidespread Not invasive Forno, 1983; EPPO, 2014
ColombiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014
GuyanaWidespreadHolm et al., 1979; EPPO, 2014

Europe

AustriaPresent Invasive Hussner, 2012
BelgiumPresent Invasive Hussner, 2012
DenmarkPresentGBIF, 2010
FrancePresent, few occurrencesEPPO, 2014
-CorsicaPresent Invasive Paradis and Miniconi, 2011; EPPO, 2014
GermanyPresentGBIF, 2010
ItalyPresent Invasive Garbari et al., 2000; Giardini, 2003; Giardini et al., 2012; EPPO, 2014Eradicated from Rome in 2012
NetherlandsPresentGBIF, 2010; GBIF, 2010; Hussner, 2012Netherlands, Zuid-Holland, Dordrecht
PortugalPresent Invasive Garcia, 2008

Oceania

AustraliaWidespread Invasive Creagh, 1991/1992; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; EPPO, 2014
FijiWidespreadConsidine, 1984/1985; Farrell, 1978; EPPO, 2014
French PolynesiaPresentISSG, 2007
New CaledoniaPresentISSG, 2007
New ZealandWidespread Invasive Considine, 1984/1985; Farrell, 1978; Yamoah et al., 2013; EPPO, 2014Targeted for eradication
Papua New GuineaPresent Invasive Mitchell, 1979; Mitchell, 1979Sepik River, also spread purposefully to hinder fishing
VanuatuPresentISSG, 2007; ISSG, 2013

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Alabama 1999 Yes Howard, 2010
Arizona 1999 Yes Howard, 2010
California 1999 Yes Howard, 2010
Georgia 1999 Yes Howard, 2010
Hawaii 1999 Yes Howard, 2010
Kenya 1984
Louisiana 1998 Yes Howard, 2010
Mississippi 1999 No Howard, 2010
North Carolina 2000 No Howard, 2010
Senegal 1999 Diop and Hill, 2009
South Carolina 1995 No Tipping and Center, 2005 Purportedly eradicated prior to spread
Sri Lanka Brazil 1939 Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes McFarland et al., 2004
Texas 1998 Yes Howard, 2010
Virginia 2004 No Howard, 2010

Risk of Introduction

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S. molesta is spread within an aquatic system by the movement of plants by wind, water currents, floods and animals. Birds, capybara, hippopotamus and waterbuffalo have all been documented to spread Salvinia between waterways (Room and Julien, 1995; Forno and Smith, 1999). Spread between aquatic systems is assumed to be mainly by humans moving plants intentionally (as ornamentals), unintentionally as a hitchhiker on boats, or in shipments of aquatic plants and fish (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Gewertz, 1983). Increased transport of commodities in international commerce will increase the movement of S. molesta around the world.

Habitat

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S. molesta easily colonizes disturbed habitats including rice paddies, flood canals, artificial lakes and hydro-electric facilities (Barrett, 1989). In its native range, S. molesta occurs in artificial reservoirs, swamps, drainage channels and along river margins (Forno and Harley, 1979). It occurs most commonly in freshwater lakes, rivers, swamps, streams, ditches and water tanks (Reed, 1977; Westbrooks, 1984). It prefers stagnant or slow moving water, often in small bays and inlets of dissected shorelines and tributaries of small streams, where it is protected from wave action. It will also grow around emergent brush and trees on flooded shorelines where it is also sheltered from wave action. Though it grows as a free-floating hydrophyte, it has been observed to thrive on land in a zone of constant mist near the foot of Victoria Falls in southern Africa (Holm et al., 1977). It can also survive on mudbanks, and will tolerate some drying (Owens et al., 2004). It is quickly killed by sea water (Holm et al., 1977) but can tolerate lower concentrations of salt (Biber, 2009).

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Freshwater
Irrigation channels Present, no further details
Lakes Present, no further details
Ponds Present, no further details
Reservoirs Present, no further details
Rivers / streams Present, no further details

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Oryza sativa (rice)PoaceaeMain

Biology and Ecology

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Reproductive Biology

S. molesta is a sterile pentaploid hybrid fern that forms spore sacs containing abortive spores due to anomalies during meiosis. Since the spores and megagametophytes that are produced are fairly short-lived, reproduction is exclusively vegetative (Mitchell, 1972). There is therefore speculation that all S. molesta infestations worldwide may be clones of a single genetic individual (Werner, 1988; Barrett, 1989).

Although S. molesta is sterile, it undergoes rapid vegetative reproduction by growth and fragmentation (Oliver, 1993). Mitchell (1979) reported that plant biomass can double in as little as 3-4 days in sterile culture and 8.1 days on Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe. Additional studies found doubling times of 6.2–5.3 days (dry weight) and 4.8–3.8 days (leaf area) (Sale et al., 1985). Mean relative growth rates, under a range of artificial and natural environmental conditions, may be as high as a 21.64% per day increase in leaf number and 17.16% per day increase in dry weight (Mitchell and Tur, 1975). Under favourable conditions, S. molesta can completely cover lakes and slow-moving streams and rivers with thick mats up to 1 m thick (Thomas and Room, 1986a). Live biomass ranges from 250-600 g per m² dry weight (Mitchell, 1979).

Similar surveys at Lake Naivasha, Kenya, found that some infestations of S. molesta in nutrient-rich water doubled in size in 4.5 days, with most growth occurring near papyrus stands. Older mats of S. molesta may be invaded by secondary vascular vegetation, resulting in the formation of sudd (a thick mat of plants) (Tarras-Wahlberg, 1986).

Growth Stages

Species in the S. auriculata complex progress through three phenotypes or growth stages (Ashton and Mitchell, 1989; Oliver, 1993). These major stages are controlled by age, degree of crowding, water turbulence and other abiotic factors. In addition to the three major stages, Ashton and Mitchell (1989) recognized an additional stage, which they described as a survival form, that occurs in harsh environments and grows slowly with flat, sometimes yellowish leaves.

1. Primary Phase. Leaves are small (about 10 mm in diameter) and lie flat on the water surface. This phase is observed during initial invasion and in plants recovering from damage. When the plant is introduced to a new habitat, it produces colonizing stage plants with thin stems that fragment easily and produce many new plants.

2. Secondary Growth Phase. Floating leaves grow to be about 25 mm long and wide and begin to fold upward, giving the structure a keeled shape. Leaves are cupped but do not overlap, and the lower surface is in contact with the water.

3. Tertiary Growth Phase. Leaves grow and thicken to approximately 38 mm wide and 25 mm long. The terminal bud now forms leaves which are compact, almost vertical, and acutely folded. This phase occurs when competition becomes severe at the height of the growing season. When growing conditions are ideal, the plant can reach this phase in 2-3 weeks (Sculthorpe, 1985; Holm et al., 1977). This phase has also been termed the mat stage.

Physiology and Phenology

S. molesta exhibits no lignification of tissues and therefore the plant must remain turgid for mechanical support of its organs. Air is trapped by the birdcage-like hairs that grow in close, parallel rows on the upper surface of the floating leaves, allowing S. molesta to float (Kaul, 1976).

Environmental Requirements

The growth of S. molesta is enhanced by high light intensities, relatively high water temperatures, and plenty of available nutrients (Mitchell and Tur, 1975). Water temperatures rising to 30°C, results in elevated growth rates, as does increasing the concentrations of nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus (Cary and Weerts, 1983). Thus, eutrophic habitats such as nutrient-rich springs and phosphate mine reclamation wetlands and ponds in the United States are particularly suitable for rapid colonization and growth (Oliver, 1993). Infestations of Salvinia can be killed when terminal buds are exposed to temperatures below -3°C, but the leaves can survive freezing air temperatures if they are under the water surface (Whiteman and Room, 1991).

S. molesta has a low tolerance of salinity and only produces new growth at salinity levels less than 5 ppt; levels above 11 ppt are toxic (Biber, 2008). Optimum growth occurs in nutrient-rich situations, pH 6-7.5, with water temperatures between 20 and 30°C, particularly when the nitrogen source is ammonium ions (NH4+) rather than nitrate ions (NO3-) (Cary and Weerts, 1983). Under these ideal conditions, a doubling of plant dry weight in 2.2 days has been recorded in Queensland, Australia (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).

Climate

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

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
32

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 10 40

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • seasonally waterlogged

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Cyrtobagous salviniae Herbivore Whole plant to genus Cilliers et al., 2002; Jiménez et al., 2004; Julien et al., 2002; Kumar et al., 2005; Room, 1990 Australia (1980), Botswana (spread from Nambia), Congo, Cote D’Ivoire (1998), Fiji (1991), Ghana (1996), India (1983), Indonesia (1997), Kenya (1990), Malaysia (1989), Mexico (2004), Namibia (1984), Papua New Guinea (1982), Philippines (1989), Sri Lanka (1986), South Africa (1985), United States, Zambia (1990), Zimbabwe (1992) Salvinia spp.
Cyrtobagous singularis Herbivore Whole plant to genus Cilliers et al., 2002; Julien et al., 2002 Botswana (1971, 1976), Australia, Fiji (1976), Zambia (1971) Salvinia spp.
Paulinia acuminata Whole plant not specific Cilliers et al., 2002; Julien et al., 2002; Kumar et al., 2005; Sands and Kassaulke, 1986 Botswana (1971, 1975 – failed to establish), Fiji (1975), India (1994), Kenya (1970 - failed to establish), Sri Lanka (1973, 1978 – failed to establish), Zambia (1970), Zimbabwe (1969, 1971) Salvinia spp. And wide variety of other species including Fragaria spp.
Samea multiplicalis Herbivore Whole plant not specific Cilliers et al., 2002; Julien et al., 2002 Australia (1981), Botswana (1972), Fiji (1976 – failed to establish), Trinidad, United States (native), Zambia (1970 – failed to establish) Salvinia spp., Azolla spp., Pistia stratiotes

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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S. molesta is spread within an aquatic system by the movement of plants by wind, water currents, floods and animals. Birds, capybara, hippopotamus and waterbuffalo have all been documented to spread Salvinia between waterways (Room and Julien, 1995; Forno and Smith, 1999). It is assumed to spread between aquatic systems mainly by humans moving plants intentionally (as ornamentals), unintentionally as a hitchhiker on boats, or in shipments of aquatic plants and fish (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Gewertz, 1983).

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Growing medium accompanying plants Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Leaves Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Roots Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches Yes Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Positive and negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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S. molesta is a pest of rice paddies in India, where it competes for water, nutrients and space, resulting in poor crop production (Anonymous, 1987). In studies on transplanted rice, S. molesta was found to cause a 12.5% yield loss due to reduction in panicle-bearing tillers (Azmi, 1988), although another study in Indonesia reported that a 25-100% cover of S. molesta before transplanting rice reduced infestations of whorl maggot (Hydrellia sp.). A cover of 60% applied 7 days after transplanting also suppressed brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens) (Homoptera: Delphacidae) infestations. As a cover crop, S. molesta suppressed weed populations and gave a grain yield of 4.2-4.8 tons/ha, whereas plots weeded twice gave a grain yield of only 2.9 tons/ha (Bangun, 1988). Since becoming established in the Phillipines in 1979, S. molesta has become a major problem in irrigated lowland rice. Spread of S. molesta has been facilitated through its introduction into ponds as fish feed as well as into rice fields as an organic manure (mistaken for azolla) (Pablico et al., 1989).

Sudd islands (thick vegetation mats of S. molesta and other plants) can lead to the death of livestock in some areas after they have attempted to walk on them (Harper, 1986; in McFarland et al. 2004).

Environmental Impact

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Thick mats of Salvinia spp. cut off light to submerged plants, often outcompeting rooted and submerged native plants and reducing vascular plant diversity (Sculthorpe, 1985). The formation of mats also lowers dissolved O2and pH, whilst simultaneously increasing CO2 and H2S, in waters beneath them (Mitchell, 1979). Benthic fauna usually decrease under well-established mats (Coates, 1982). As plants in the mat die and sink to the bottom, benthic fish can be impacted by changes in O2 concentrations and water depth as material accumulates (Sculthorpe, 1985). In India, S. molesta has invaded wetlands and reportedly replaced native flora (Gopal, 1988).

Social Impact

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Infestations of S. molesta contribute to human health problems. Dense mats of S. molesta are an important plant host of Mansonia spp. mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae), which have been identified as vectors of West Nile Virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis and rural elephantiasis (Pancho and Soerjani, 1978; Chow et al., 1955; Ramachandran, 1960; Lounibos et al., 1990). It also shelters mosquito species that are responsible for the transmission of encephalitis, malaria and dengue fever in other areas (Creagh, 1991/92). Infestations also harbour snails that transmit schistosomiasis (Holm et al., 1977).

Thick mats of S. molesta prevent the passage of boats, and even a single layer of plants is a major obstacle to canoes. As a result, infestations can severely impede transport by water as well as commercial and recreational fishing (McFarland et al., 2004). Large mats block access to drinking water by humans, domestic stock and wildlife, clog irrigation and drainage canals, and sweep fences and other light structures ahead of them during floods (Holm et al., 1977; Thomas and Room, 1986b). Entire villages that depended on aquatic transportation were abandoned along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea when infestations of S. molesta limited access to healthcare, education and food (Gewertz, 1983).   

Extracts from S. molesta are being investigated as cytotoxic compounds against human cancer cells (Li, 2013).

Risk and Impact Factors

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Uses

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Many studies have evaluated potential benefits and value of S. molesta and other aquatic weeds. S. molesta provides food for some fish and, if sparsely distributed, also provides shade and shelter. Salvinia spp. are eaten by ducks, geese, swans, pigs and sometimes by cattle, deer and upland game birds (Holm et al., 1977). Potential uses of the plant include as a compost and mulch, and as a supplement to livestock feed (Thomas and Room, 1986a; Oliver, 1993). However, it is not suitable as a sole source of fodder because of the high content of crude ash and tannins that reduce digestibility (Moozhiyil and Pallauf, 1986). S. molesta has also been investigated as a feed for tilapia (King et al, 2004), chickens (Ma’rifah et al, 2013), ducks (Sumiati and Nurhaya, 2003) and swine (Leterme et al, 2009).

S. molesta is not only efficient at removing nutrients from water but also in removing heavy metals, making it potentially useful in a variety of wastewater applications (Shimada et al., 1988). Experimentally, it concentrates phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium, manganese, iron and zinc in dry tissues by about 10, 2, 1, 5, 3, and 10,000 times their respective concentrations in the water and appears to have some potential in water purification (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). S. molesta has been used in a variety of mining remediations around the world (Sukumaran, 2013; Ashraf et al, 2011; Prasad, 2010), and has also been used in treating high-nutrient swine farm runoff water (Yang and Chen, 1994).

A few studies have also investigated using S. molesta for biogas production (Thomas and Room, 1986). The potential energy of eight common aquatic weeds was determined in India by anaerobic digestion to produce methane, the energy production potential of S. molesta was approximately 108 Kcal/ha (Abbasi et al., 1990). Experimentally, S. molesta fermented aerobically at 32°C yielded 8.8 litres of biogas per kilogram of fresh weight. A 3:1 mixture of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) and S. molesta increased the yield of biogas to 11.2 litres per kilogram of fresh weight (Abbasi and Nipaney, 1984).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed

Environmental

  • Landscape improvement

Fuels

  • Biofuels

General

  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Pet/aquarium trade
  • Sociocultural value

Materials

  • Fertilizer

Detection and Inspection

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Within the S. auriculata complex, to which S. molesta belongs, all of the species are very similar in their vegetative morphology. Therefore, reproductive structures should be used for identifying species within the complex whenever possible, though plants bearing sporocarps are rarely reported in the United States (Riefner and Smith, 2009). A comparison of species within the complex is provided in the section Similarities to Other Species/Conditions.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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S. molesta is one of four species that are members of the S. auriculata complex (Mitchelll and Thomas, 1972). The other species are S. auriculata, S. biloba and S. herzogii. Members of this complex all have four hairs on the tip of each papilla that are joined to form a cage-like (or eggbeater) structure on the upper surface of mature leaves. Other species in the genus have hairs on the tip of each papilla, and each hair divides at the end into three or four free arms not joined into a cage (Riefner and Smith, 2009).

All species within the S. auriculata complex are very similar in the vegetative state. Reproductive structures should therefore be used for identifying species within the complex whenever possible. A comparison of species within the complex is provided below.

S. molesta
a. Upper leaves: with aerolae approximately equal size in outer third of leaf; those of outer one third at most twice as long as wide; those of the inner two-thirds considerably longer than wide.
b. Aerolae: 5-10 in number from margin to midrib.
c. Lower leaves: petiolate, divided distally with short branches not recurved.
d. Sporocarps: Globose to apiculate, sessile to short-stalked, stalks arranged in a racemose manner along the fertile axis.

S. auriculata
a. Upper leaves: with aerolae of approximately equal length in outer two-thirds of leaf; those of outer third at most as long as wide.
b. Aerolae: 10-26 in number from margin to midrib.
c. Lower leaves: sessile or long petiolate, divided distally with short recurved branches.
d. Sporocarps: globose, long-stalked, stalks mostly attached at the apex of submersed leaves; usually <14 in number.

S. biloba
a. Upper leaves: with aerolae of approximately equal length in outer third of leaf; the outer third at most twice as long as wide, the inner two-thirds considerably longer than wide.
b. Aerolae: 8-12 in number from margin to midrib.
c. Lower leaves: petiolate, divided distally with short branches recurved or not.
d. Sporocarps: apiculate, stalked, stalks attached along the fertile axis; often >10 in number.

S. herzogii
a. Upper leaves: with aerolae six times as long as wide.
b. Aerolae: 5-10 in number from margin to midrib.
c. Lower leaves: short petiolate, divided distally with short branches not recurved.
d. Sporocarps: ovoid, apiculate, sessile, arranged more or less compactly along the fertile axis.

S. natans and S. cucculata, which are found mostly in Asia, have hairs on the tip of each papilla, and each hair divides at the end into three or four free arms.

S. molesta and Ipomoea aquatica occur in similar habitats, but occupy very distinct ecological niches. I. aquatica has emergent shoots with submerged stoloniferous components, and S. molesta occupies the space between I. aquatica plants, sheltered by them. I. aquatica appears to be more aggressive of the two, colonizing new areas before S. molesta. The submerged components of I. aquatica show some resistance to adverse conditions, ensuring perpetuation of the species when favourable conditions return. Nitrogen and phosphorous are important growth factors in both macrophytes. I. aquatica shows a high absorption capacity for ammonium-nitrogen. Potassium and calcium are relatively high while magnesium and sodium are low in these habitats (Chin and Fong, 1978).

Prevention and Control

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All imported shipments of aquatic plants, tropical fish and other similar products from infested countries should be closely examined for the presence of S. molesta. Since S. molesta reproduces vegetatively, even small undetected fragments are sufficient to permit an introduction into a new country. As with all noxious weeds, prevention is the most effective way to limit the spread of S. molesta. Production of S. molesta-free products (such as tropical fish and ornamental water plants) is the only sure way to prevent further global movement of this weed.

Chemical Control

The birdcage hairs on the upper surface of S. molesta leaves form a waterproof barrier to most herbicides. However, penetration can be enhanced by the use of a wetting agent or surfactant (Oliver, 1993). In Australia, repeated applications of paraquat in combination with a wetting agent were successful in controlling S. molesta (Miller and Pickering, 1980). Outdoor herbicide trials revealed that 8.97 kg/ha glyphosate mixed with a non-ionic surfactant controlled 99% of S. molesta 42 days post-treatment (Nelson et al., 2001). Laboratory studies also showed effective control over a broad range of application rates, including those as low as 0.45%, with mortality rates increased by the addition of surfactant (Fairchild et al., 2002).

In Malaysia, diquat was effective in controlling S. molesta (Kam-Wing and Furtado, 1977). Nelson et al. (2001) showed that 1.12 kg/ha diquat provided effective control of S. molesta and performed better than glyphosate, endothall and other combinations. However, Mitchell (1979) reported that diquat was only 1/8th as effective on S. molesta as paraquat. Complete control of S. molesta was observed 10-14 days after treatment with 2,4-D plus paraffin + calcium dodecyl benzene sulphonate using punt- or hovercraft-mounted sprayers (Julien, 1984).

In a study in New Zealand, fluridone formulations provided good control of S. molesta in outdoor tanks (Wells et al., 1986). Applications of hexazinone, ametryn and paraquat have also been effective in controlling S. molesta (Westbrooks, 1984). Terbutryn is recommended in South Africa (Vermeulen et al., 1996). In another study, foliar applications of hexazinone + surfactant resulted in complete control of S. molesta (Toth and Campion, 1979). In a greenhouse evaluation the most effective herbicide was linuron followed by diuron. Affected plants suffered localized chlorosis, necrosis, retardation of stem and leaf elongation and possibly leaf formation, and eventually died (Waithaka, 1980).

After S. molesta was found in January 1977 growing in the upper reaches of the Adelaide River, Northern Territory, Australia, a 10-year eradication program was initiated. Herbicides used to kill larger stands included paraquat, diquat, 2,4-D, and diuron + calcium dodecylbenzene sulphonate. Smaller areas of S. molesta were removed by hand and areas of overhanging vegetation along the edges of the river were burned to expose hidden plants. The last sighting of S. molesta on the river was in 1982; regular surveys were continued until 1986 to ensure that no re-infestation occurred (Miller and Pickering, 1988).

In the laboratory, detergent has been shown to damage S. molesta. In one experiment, spraying the plant with a 0.05% solution of a household detergent (linear alkyl benzene sulfonate) resulted in 85% decrease in total chlorophyll and 75% decrease in total protein within 48 hours after treatment (Chawla et al., 1989).

Physical/Mechanical Control

Manual removal of plant material as a maintenance control approach has been effective, but is very labour intensive. In India, manual removal has been used successfully to control 1,500 ha of S. molesta on a hydroelectric reservoir. In this case, it took 30 men to remove about half of the infestation over a 3-month period. Continued maintenance control required a similar operation on an annual basis (Murphy, 1988). In an infestation on the Adelaide River in the Northern Territory of Australia, the bulk of the sudd (thick mat of S. molesta and other plants) was manually removed and remaining plants along the river bank were successfully controlled with herbicides such as diquat and 2,4-D (Miller and Pickering, 1988).

Generally speaking, manual removal is only practical in the early stages of invasion (Oliver, 1993). After the plant becomes established, biomass of about 80 tons/ha and rapid regrowth make mechanical harvesting and removal impractical. According to Thomas and Room (1986a), mechanical removal is not cost-competitive with chemical control.

Floating booms and wire nets have some value in containing Salvinia spp. infestations. However, such equipment is subject to breaking under the weight of large windblown mats (Thomas, 1976).

Thomas (1990) reported the development of a simple 10 hp machine in India with a high capacity jet device that sucks, fluidizes and pumps out plant material to a desired height or location. The harvesting rate was reported to be 15 tons/hour for continuous operation, and at a lower cost than manual removal of plant material. Another mechanical harvester for S. molesta, reported by Sankaranarayanan et al. (1985), is mounted on a twin-pontooned floating platform that measures 3.6 x 1.5 m and weighs 415 kg. The harvesting capacity is 16 tons per hour and the machine can operate in water as shallow as 50 cm.

Biological Control

The salvinia weevil (Cyrtobagus salviniae) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) has been used successfully to control Salvinia spp. (Calder and Sands, 1985; Cilliers, 1991; McFarland et al., 2004). A semi-aquatic weevil native to Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia, C. salviniae has been released in 16 countries to control S. molesta (Wibmer and O’Brien, 1986; Julien and Griffiths, 1998; Julien et al., 2002).  C. salviniae also feeds on S. minima (common salvinia) in the USA (Tipping et al., 2010). In South Africa, Botswana, and India, where the weevil has been introduced, S. molesta was reduced to 1% of its former area (Room, 1986a; Creagh, 1991/92; Cilliers, 1991). On the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, introductions of C. salviniae reduced a 250 km2 infestation of the plant to 1.5 km2 in 18 months (Thomas and Room, 1986b). In Sri Lanka, about 80% of infestations of S. molesta had been destroyed following the release of C. salviniae in 1986 (Room and Fernando, 1992). In Texas, 651,000 larvae, pupae and adult C. salviniae weevils were released at five sites with heavy S. molesta infestations, and in nine months the populations were reduced to less than 10% of their original extent (Flores and Carlson, 2006).

However, in Northern Territory, Australia, high water temperatures in water bodies have been associated with the failure of the weevil to control the plant. The effectiveness of C. salviniae in New South Wales, Australia, has also been variable, because the cooler climate of the region is not favourable for the growth of the insect (Oliver, 1993). Intermittent success in biological control of S. molesta using C. salviniae in Australia has been attributed to alternative stable states (Schooler et al., 2011; Stone, 2011).

Insect damage to S. molesta generally increases as the water temperature increases from 16 to 30°C (Forno and Bourne, 1986). Additionally, feeding and damage by C. salviniae is dependent on levels of nitrogen in the plant. In Sri Lanka, the weevil was released in several lowland areas in 1987; however, increases in weevil numbers were low due to low levels of nitrogen in the tissues of the plant until the end of a drought. After water and nitrogen levels returned to the previous levels the following year, infestations of the plant were destroyed by the weevil (Room et al., 1989).

Another potential biological control agent is an aquatic grasshopper, Paulinia acuminata (Orthoptera: Acrididae). However, adults and nymphs feed on S. molesta, water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and Azolla spp., and it is of questionable value as a biological control agent because it is not monophagic and has not been shown conclusively to control S. molesta (Sands and Kassaulke, 1986). Contradicting Sands and Kassaulke (1986), it has been suggested that P. acuminata has controlled a severe infestation of S. molesta 1973 on Lake Kariba, in central Africa (Zambia and Zimbabwe). After damming of the Zambesi River created the lake, growth of S. molesta increased rapidly and covered over 1000 km2 of water at the peak infestation in 1962. By 1973, the infestation suddenly fell to 77 km2 and remained at this level. It has been suggested that the introduction and release of P. acuminata to the lake from Trinidad in 1970, its subsequent establishment and high population in 1973 likely contributed to the control of S. molesta (Mitchell and Rose, 1979).

In Queensland, Australia, the pyralid moth Samea multiplicalis and C. salviniae were released at separate sites for biological control of S. molesta. Although C. salviniae removed large areas of the plant, S. multiplicalis did not reduce plant growth permanently at any site. In another study in Queensland, Australia, larval densities of Samea multiplicalis at 0.8 and 1.6 per plant caused severe damage to S. molesta. In the 15 experiments, Samea multiplicalis larvae destroyed about half the leaf area and reduced plant weight and number of ramets. However, roots and rhizomes remained undamaged, no buds were destroyed, and the plants were able to continue to grow (Julien and Bourne, 1988). In the United States, where Samea multiplicalis in native, it does not completely control but significantly impacts the closely related species S. minima in conjunction with releases of C. salviniae (Tewari and Johnson, 2011).

Of all insects released for the control of S. molesta, only C. salviniae has proven effective (Room, 1986b; Oliver, 1993; McFarland et al. 2004), and at a lower cost than chemical or mechanical control (Chikwenhere and Keswani, 1997)

Recently, the fungus Simplicillium lanosoniveum has been isolated from S. molesta specimens symptomatic for Brown Spot in Taiwan, but this agent’s potential for use as biological control is untested (Chen, 2008).

Regulatory Control

On a body of water, S. molesta can be moved by wind, currents, and ships. It is moved overland for short distances by adhering (with mud) to fur and feathers of animals, to clothing and to the sides and bottoms of boats and wheels of vehicles. Sometimes the plants are used as packing for fish and other products of fresh water lakes and streams. It has been spread around the world as a contaminant of various aquatic goods such as shipments of tropical fish and aquatic plants (Holm et al., 1977). It has also been spread maliciously to interfere with fishing (Gewertz, 1983). Increased transport of commodities in international commerce will increase the movement of S. molesta around the world. Because of the great difficulties associated with its manual, chemical and biological control, regulatory prevention remains the most effective management strategy available (McFarland et al., 2004).

S. molesta is listed as a Federal Noxious Weed in USA (Anonymous, 1981) and as a state noxious weed in Florida (Ramey, 1990) and North Carolina. It is also listed as a noxious weed in all states of Australia (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992), Thailand (Chomchalow, 2011) and Europe (EPPO).

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06/05/2010 Updated by:

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