Senecio madagascariensis (fireweed)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Senecio madagascariensis Poiret
Preferred Common Name
Other Scientific Names
- Senecio burchellii auct. non DC.
- Senecio burchellii auct. non DC. sensu Cabrera
- Senecio incognitus Cabrera
- Senecio junodianus O. Hoffm.
- Senecio ruderalis Harvey
International Common Names
- Spanish: senecio amarillo (Argentina)
Local Common Names
- Germany: Greiskraut, Burchells; Kreuzkraut, Burchells
- SENBU (Senecio burchellii)
- SENIN (Senecio incognitus)
- SENMD (Senecio madagascariensis)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Asterales
- Family: Asteraceae
- Genus: Senecio
- Species: Senecio madagascariensis
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The distinction between S. madagascariensis and S. inaequidens is controversial. Traditionally a distinction has been made between these two taxa, whilst recent evidence suggests that they are conspecific, differing only in ploidy level (Scott et al., 1998).
The epithet 'madagascariensis' refers to the Madagascan origin of the first collection made by Phillippe de Commerson.
The origin of the Australian common name 'fireweed' is unknown, although Sindel et al. (1998) suggest that this may be because of the species' ability to 'spread like wild-fire', its bright yellow colour, its supposed ability to cause spontaneous combustion in hay or its appearance after fire.
DescriptionTop of page
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
Distribution TableTop of page
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: 23 Nov 2020
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|South Africa||Present, Widespread||Native|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Australia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-New South Wales||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|Argentina||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1940s|
|-Rio Grande do Sul||Present|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
S. madagascariensis was first recorded from Argentina in the early 1940s from the Port of Bahia Blanca (as S. incognitus; Cabrera, 1941), and is now found in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Rios, Corrientes and Mendoza (Verona et al., 1982; Volkart, 1984; Tracanna and Catullo, 1987). S. madagascariensis has also been recorded as introduced into the highlands of Kenya (2600 m; Medley, 1997) and Colombia (2800 m; Sindel et al., 1998).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
A chromosome number of 2n=(2x)=20 has commonly been reported for Australian and Argentinian S. madagascariensis (Verona et al., 1982; Radford et al., 1995b), although Hunziker et al. (1989) have reported a chromosome number of n=20 from Argentinian S. madagascariensis. Examples for putative hybrids between S. madagascariensis and S. lautus have been recorded in Queensland, Australia (McFadyen and Sparks, 1996). Artificial crosses between these two species are sterile (Sindel et al., 1998). Hybrids in the native range are not reported. However, the taxonomic confusion that exists with S. madagascariensis means that detection of natural hybridization will be difficult. Investigations of neutral genetic markers has been limited. Sindel et al. (1998) report low levels of alloenzyme variation in Australian S. madagascariensis, whilst Scott et al. (1998) report no variation in the internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) of the nuclear ribosomal DNA sequence from Australian and Madagascan S. madagascariensis. In both of these studies, the main genetic variation was between South African/Australian and Madagascan populations.
To understand the genetics, systematics and morphological variation of S. madagascariensis, it is necessary to investigate populations from the exotic ranges of S. inaequidens and S. madagascariensis in more detail, together with material from southern Africa of S. madagascariensis, S. inaequidens, S. burchellii, S. pellucidus, S. skirrhodon and S. harveianus.
Physiology and Phenology
S. madagascariensis contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), some of which are highly toxic to animals and humans (Mattocks, 1986). The PA senecionine has been reported from S. madagascariensis (as S. lautus; Rizk, 1991; Mattocks, 1986). PAs are not toxic to mammals per se, rather the hazard arises through the normal oxidative detoxification mechanisms in the liver that convert them to pyrrolic metabolites (dehydroalkaloids; Mattocks, 1986). Hepatotoxicity or carcinogenicity of these highly reactive electrophilic alkylating agents is a result of their binding to nucleophilic centres in tissues or to cross-link DNA (Mattocks, 1986; Woo et al., 1993; Stegelmeier et al., 1999; Kim et al., 1999; Fu et al., 2001).
In S. jacobaea, there is considerable variation in the total PA concentration and concentration of individual PAs from plant-to-plant (Witte et al., 1992). Hartmann and Zimmer (1986) found that the highest PA content occurred in the capitula, and that PA concentration was five- to ten-fold higher than in the roots and leaves.
S. madagascariensis is a short-lived perennial (Green, 1953; Cabrera and Ré, 1965; Martin and Colman, 1977; Verona et al., 1982) but it commonly behaves as an annual (Hilliard, 1977; Walker and Kirkland, 1981); it has also been recorded as a biennial (Humbert, 1963).
Capitula open when expanding disc florets force the involucral bracts apart. Expansion and unrolling of ray florets occurs in less than 24 h; stigmas are receptive as soon as the floret is expanded. Disc florets open later (centripetally). The capitula are visited by many types of insect, mainly Hymenoptera and Diptera (Sindel et al., 1998). Sindel et al. (1998) indicate that S. madagascariensis is self-incompatible; probably with sporophytic self-incompatibility, in common with other members of the Asteraceae (Hiscock, 2000). Thus, S. madagascariensis is another example of a successful self-incompatible colonizer in the genus like S. squalidus (Brennan et al., 2002) and S. jacobaea.
Propagation is primarily by achenes, although vegetative propagation by roots may also occur (Sindel et al., 1998). Individual S. madagascariensis plants vary greatly in the number of achenes they produce (Fernandez and Verona, 1984; Sindel and Michael, 1996; Sindel et al., 1998). Three types of achenes are produced (dark brown, light brown and green); the dark brown and green achenes appear to be associated with the ray florets (Sindel et al., 1998). These achenes do not differ in mean weight or length (Alonso et al., 1982) but they do have different germination rates and dormancies. Putative disc floret achenes germinate more quickly than ray floret achenes (Sindel et al., 1998), as has been found for S. jacobaea (McEvoy and Cox, 1987). Extreme temperatures induce achene dormancy, although under normal conditions dormancy is negligible (Alonso et al., 1982). Light and nitrates will stimulate achene germination but they are not essential (Alonso et al., 1982). However, Guillen et al. (1984) indicate that S. madagascariensis achenes are positively photoblastic.
Information on achene longevity is conflicting. Achenes may remain viable for up to 5 years when stored dry (Alonso et al., 1982). However, by extrapolation from experiments on achenes buried 3 cm below the soil surface for 15 months, Sindel et al. (1998) indicate that achenes will remain viable for more than 10 years.
Vegetative reproduction can occur from root fragments and intact roots and rooting along decumbent stems (Sindel et al., 1998).
S. madagascariensis is opportunistic with the ability to colonize a wide range of habitats. It occurs on the eastern seaboard of the three southern Hemisphere continents at similar latitudes and is most successful in humid maritime and sub-tropical climates; it tends to be restricted to climates with low frost incidence (Sindel and Michael, 1989).
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||10||20|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||500||1500||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Achenes are wind-dispersed. Disturbance is a major factor in the establishment of S. madagascariensis and populations are limited more by the availability of microsites for germination and establishment than by achene availability.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
Humans and their animals transport achenes (Sindel et al., 1998).
The movement of hay is likely to spread achenes (Sindel et al., 1998). The movement of livestock, and survival of achenes in faeces, is also likely to aid dispersal. Poor management of pasture provides ideal conditions for the establishment of S. madagascariensis.
S. madagascariensis may be accidentally introduced by man, as a result of movement of soil during building works, and by attachment to vehicles or in the slip-stream of road vehicles.
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Fruits (inc. pods)||fruits|
|Growing medium accompanying plants||fruits|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches||fruits|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|True seeds (inc. grain)|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page
Social ImpactTop of page
PAs and/or toxic metabolites are secreted in the milk of lactating dairy cattle (Dickinson and King, 1978; Goeger et al., 1979; Deinzer et al., 1982; Geoger et al., 1982b; Molyneux and James, 1990) and have been found in eggs (Edgar and Smith, 1999). However, because commercial milk supplies are bulked there is unlikely to be significant human exposure by this route (Australia New Zealand Food Authority, 2001). S. madagascariensis may be a honey plant in parts of south-eastern Australia (Sindel et al., 1998); however, the consequences of low-level PA exposure for human health are unclear (Australia New Zealand Food Authority, 2001).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult to identify/detect in the field
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
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.Cultural Control
The most important principle of any S. madagascariensis control programme is the maintenance of vigorous pasture species (Launders, 1986; Sindel and Michael, 1988). Low stocking rates or no grazing at peak emergence times can provide some control (Sindel et al., 1998). Sheep will graze S. madagascariensis (Watson et al., 1994) and show a high tolerance of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), particularly older sheep (Brenchley, 1920; Sharrow and Mosher, 1982; Amor et al., 1983; Olson and Lacey, 1994; Betteridge et al., 2000). However, continuous exposure of sheep to PAs should be avoided because toxicity problems can occur. Following grazing, S. madagascariensis plants may recover quickly and produce new shoots. A second crop of flowers may be produced following grazing at the flowering stage, which will necessitate a further grazing if achene production is to be prevented. Sheep-based control of S. madagascariensis cannot be recommended on animal welfare grounds.
Mechanical approaches to S. madagascariensis control include cutting, digging-out, hand-pulling and machine-pulling; each of these treatments may need to be repeated two or three times per year (preferably before flowering). Cutting is a useful emergency treatment to prevent fruiting, although the plants must be cut before the achenes are mature and the treatment must be followed by another control treatment because cutting may encourage the production of side shoots. Digging-out and hand-pulling (using gloves) are not practical for large areas of S. madagascariensis infestation. A problem of both digging-out and hand-pulling methods are that small plants may be missed, hence the need for annual treatment. Machine-pulling is suitable for large areas of infestation, and plants are selected on the basis of height differences. There is evidence that mowing may promote regrowth (Verona et al., 1982).
Different types of herbicide, application methods and times of application have been tested in Australia for the control of S. madagascariensis (Anderson and Panetta, 1995).
Bromoxynil is effective on young plants, although a higher rate was needed after bud formation (Sindel et al., 1998). In Argentinian trials, glyphosate was as effective at bromoxynil but was followed by re-infestation (Tracanna et al., 1983). Top dressing pastures with nitrogen fertilizer after herbicide treatment may inhibit futher S. madagascariensis growth due to the rapid growth of competitors (Sindel and Michael, 1992b; Allan et al., 2001). Generally, multirope, carpet wipers or rotary wipers are more effective than simple rope wick applicators (Allan et al., 2001). The optimum time for herbicide application is at the seedling or early flowering stage (Tracanna et al., 1983). Since S. madagascariensis germination occurs in flushes throughout the season, a single herbicide application is unlikely to be effective.
To be most effective herbicide control should be undertaken in conjunction with pasture management.
Pests associated with S. madagascariensis in Australia do not discriminate between it and the native species S. lautus (Holtkamp and Hosking, 1993). Thus biological control programmes have been of limited success. In addition, the search for insect pests has focused on Madagascar (Marohasy, 1989), whilst DNA and alloenzyme data suggest that Australian S. madagascariensis is more closely related to South African populations (Scott et al., 1998; Radford et al., 2000). More success may be achieved by searching for potential biological control agents in South Africa (Radford et al., 1995a; McFadyen and Sparks, 1996).
Integrated management involves containment, reduction and finally elimination of S. madagascariensis. Such long-term control has a short-term goal of preventing achene production in infested areas, and is emphasized by all control recommendations. In general, S. madagascariensis occurrence in pastures is a symptom of poor management, therefore re-seeding and grazing and fertility management may be essential components of a control plan.
ReferencesTop of page
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Witt A, Luke Q, 2017. Guide to the naturalized and invasive plants of Eastern Africa. [ed. by Witt A, Luke Q]. Wallingford, UK: CABI. vi + 601 pp. http://www.cabi.org/cabebooks/ebook/20173158959 DOI:10.1079/9781786392145.0000
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