Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Stachytarpheta jamaicensis
(Jamaica vervain)



Stachytarpheta jamaicensis (Jamaica vervain)


  • Last modified
  • 26 February 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Stachytarpheta jamaicensis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Jamaica vervain
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • There are no pictures available for this datasheet

    If you can supply pictures for this datasheet please contact:

    CAB International
    OX10 8DE
  • Distribution map More information

Don't need the entire report?

Generate a print friendly version containing only the sections you need.

Generate report


Top of page
Mature flowering plant.
TitleMature plant
CaptionMature flowering plant.
CopyrightJohn T. Swarbrick/Weed Science Consultancy
Mature flowering plant.
Mature plantMature flowering plant.John T. Swarbrick/Weed Science Consultancy
a. flower; b. bract; c. calyx; d. pistil; e. seed.
TitleLine artwork of S. jamaicensis
Captiona. flower; b. bract; c. calyx; d. pistil; e. seed.
a. flower; b. bract; c. calyx; d. pistil; e. seed.
Line artwork of S. jamaicensisa. flower; b. bract; c. calyx; d. pistil; e. seed.SEAMEO-BIOTROP


Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Stachytarpheta jamaicensis (L.) Vahl

Preferred Common Name

  • Jamaica vervain

Other Scientific Names

  • Stachytarpheta dichotoma
  • Verbena jamaicensis L. (1753)

International Common Names

  • English: blue rat's tail; light blue snakeweed

Local Common Names

  • Australia: Jamaica snakeweed
  • Caribbean: verbena; vervain
  • Colombia: golondrina; verbena azul
  • Cuba: verbena cimarona
  • Dominican Republic: verbena morada
  • Guam: false verbena; Jamaica vervain
  • India: kariyartharani; katapunuttu; semainyuruvi
  • Indonesia: gewongan; jarong
  • Indonesia/Java: gajihan; ngadi rengga
  • Madagascar: ombimboalareo
  • Malaysia: ramput tahi babi; selaseh dandi
  • Mauritius: queue de rat
  • New Caledonia: herbe blue; nettle leaf vervain
  • Niue: mautofu Samoa
  • Philippines: albaka; bilu-bilu; bolomaros; Brazil tea; kandi-kandilaan; limbagat; sentemiento; verbena de las antilles
  • Samoa: mautofu tala
  • Solomon Islands: kinilio
  • Sri Lanka: bulunakuta; hai-or ingi
  • Tonga: iku'i kuma
  • Trinidad and Tobago: rough-leaved false vervain; vervine
  • USA/Hawaii: Jamaica vervain

EPPO code

  • STCJA (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis)

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Lamiales
  •                         Family: Verbenaceae
  •                             Genus: Stachytarpheta
  •                                 Species: Stachytarpheta jamaicensis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Stachy(s) (a spike, originally an ear of corn) describes the elongate inflorescence, and tarphy (thick) refers to the thickened or densely flowered flower stalks; jamaicensis attributes the plant to Jamaica, although it more probably originated from the northern part of South America.

The genus Stachytarpheta contains about 65 species, mostly from the American tropics; many are weedy throughout the tropics and subtropics. Some sources treat S. indica and, or S. cayennensis as synonyms, but these will treated as discrete species after USDA et al. (1998).

No information is available on chromosome numbers of Stachytarpheta spp.


Top of page S. jamaicensis is a perennial or occasionally annual woody herb with a strong tap root and usually ascending or erect annual shoots 0.5 to 2.0 m tall ending in several slender erect spikes of flowers.

Many woody stems arise from the base of the plant, these are green, 4-angled at first but cylindrical and often purplish later, ascending or erect, usually up to 1 m long, with swollen nodes.

Leaves paired, opposite, elliptic, 3-10 cm long, rather leathery, strongly nerved with the veins depressed above and prominent below, dark green, hairless or very finely hairy, merging into the short petioles, the margins are regularly toothed.

Flowers lilac, lavender, blue or purple, opening 1-3 at a time from the base towards the tip of 20-40 cm long spikes at the ends of the branches, each flower partly buried in the spike, with five unequal petals 5-8 mm across, and two stamens. Flowers normally open only for a day, but fall within an hour when picked.

Seeds 5 mm long, concavo-convex, ridged, brown, retained within the spikes which thicken to ca 5 mm diameter over the seeds, and are thinner in the intervening furrows.

Seedlings with epigeal germination. Hypocotyl 15-22 mm long, finely hairy, green to purple. Cotyledons shortly stalked, ovate, 7-9 mm long, finely hairy. Juvenile leaves paired, ovate, 8-10 mm long, toothed, finely hairy.


Top of page

Stachytarpheta species are generally agreed to be native to tropical America but were already known in Asia in the 18th Century. S. jamaicensis is now widespread in Central America, the Caribbean, East and Southern Asia and the Pacific, but occurs less frequently in Africa. However, it is recorded as invasive in Kenya and Tanzania (Witt and Luke, 2017).

Distribution Table

Top 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.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes


CambodiaPresentHolm et al., 1991
ChinaPresentHolm et al., 1991
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)PresentBarker and Telford, 1993
IndiaPresentTadulingam et al., 1955; Holm et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1997
-KarnatakaPresentSharma and Singh, 1988
-KeralaPresentEstelitta et al., 1995; Mathew and Balakrishnan, 1991
IndonesiaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1997
-JavaPresentKostermans et al., 1987
MalaysiaPresentHolm et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1997
PhilippinesWidespreadPancho et al., 1969; Holm et al., 1991
Sri LankaRestricted distributionHolm et al., 1991
TaiwanWidespreadChang et al., 1982; Holm et al., 1991
ThailandPresentHolm et al., 1991
VietnamPresentHolm et al., 1991


GhanaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991
KenyaPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017
MadagascarPresentHolm et al., 1997
MalawiPresentIntroducedWitt and Luke, 2017
MauritiusPresentHolm et al., 1991; McIntyre and Barbe, 1994; Holm et al., 1997
NigeriaPresentHolm et al., 1991
South AfricaPresentWells et al., 1986
TanzaniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017
ZambiaPresentIntroducedWitt and Luke, 2017

North America

MexicoPresent Natural
USAPresentHolm et al., 1991
-AlabamaPresent Natural
-FloridaPresent Natural
-HawaiiWidespreadHaselwood & Motter, 1983; Holm et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1997

Central America and Caribbean

AnguillaPresent Natural
Antigua and BarbudaPresent Natural
BahamasPresent Natural
BarbadosPresent Natural Holm et al., 1997
BelizePresent Natural
Costa RicaPresent Natural Holm et al., 1991
CubaPresent Natural Holm et al., 1997
DominicaPresent Natural Fournet and Hammerton, 1991
Dominican RepublicPresent Natural Holm et al., 1997
El SalvadorPresent Natural
GrenadaPresent Natural Fournet and Hammerton, 1991
GuadeloupePresent Natural Fournet and Hammerton, 1991
GuatemalaPresent Natural
HaitiPresent Natural
HondurasPresent Natural
JamaicaPresentHolm et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1997
MartiniquePresent Natural Fournet and Hammerton, 1991
MontserratPresent Natural Fournet and Hammerton, 1991
Netherlands AntillesPresent Natural
NicaraguaPresent Natural
PanamaPresent Natural
Puerto RicoPresent Natural Holm et al., 1991
Saint Kitts and NevisPresent Natural Fournet and Hammerton, 1991
Saint LuciaPresent Natural Fournet and Hammerton, 1991
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresent Natural Fournet and Hammerton, 1991
Trinidad and TobagoPresentBaronowski & Slater, 1979; Holm et al., 1991

South America

BrazilPresent Natural
ColombiaPresentHolm et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1997
EcuadorWidespread Natural Holm et al., 1991
French GuianaPresent Natural
GuyanaPresent Natural
SurinamePresent Natural Holm et al., 1991
VenezuelaPresent Natural


AustraliaWidespreadHolm et al., 1991; Holm et al., 1997
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentHnatiuk, 1990; Smith, 1991
-QueenslandPresentHnatiuk, 1990
French PolynesiaPresentFlorence et al., 1983
New CaledoniaPresentMacKee, 1985; Holm et al., 1997
NiuePresentWhistler, 1983
Papua New GuineaPresentHenty and Pritchard, 1975
SamoaPresentWhistler, 1983
Solomon IslandsPresentHancock and Henderson, 1988
TongaPresentWhistler, 1983


Top of page S. jamaicensis thrives in moist, fertile soils, but will also tolerate seasonal drought. It tolerates soil compaction, vehicular passage and trampling by livestock, and grows in a wide range of soils. It requires medium to high light intensities and grows poorly in dense shade. The plant grows to altitudes of 800 m in India.

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page In addition to listed crops S. jamaicensis is also a major weed in pastures throughout the tropics, and a minor weed in many other tropical vegetable and plantation crops. It is also common in uncultivated sites such as pastures, roadsides, gardens, parks, fencelines and around habitation and farm buildings.

Biology and Ecology

Top of page S. jamaicensis is a perennial woody herb which reproduces solely by seed. Mature seeds remain within the dry, brittle fruiting spike. Up to 2000 seeds have been recorded per plant (Holm et al 1997). The seeds have no obvious method of dispersal other than in contaminated trash and soil. They may also pass unharmed through the digestive system of herbivores. Seeds remained viable for 6.5 years when buried 15 cm deep in soil in the Philippines (Holm et al., 1997).

The plant grows in a wide range of environments but prefers moist, uncultivated soils. Following damage resulting from trampling, grazing and mowing it is able to regrow from dormant buds at and below soil level. Plants are destroyed by cultivation, which if frequent enough to prevent the production of viable seed, will result in eradication of the weed.

S. jamaicensis grows in a wide range of soil types, including ferralitic soils on volcanic islands (Florence et al., 1983).

Natural enemies

Top of page
Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Asphondylia stachytarphetae Growing point
Omophoita albicollis Herbivore Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Waterhouse and Norris (1987) discuss the natural enemies and biological control prospects for Stachytarpheta urticifolia and include a list of natural enemies recorded in Trinidad. Cock (1985) reviewed a range of insects for biological control potential in Trinidad and Guyana. These are the only investigations of natural enemy impact and prospects for classical biological control made for Stachytarpheta spp.


Top of page S. jamaicensis is usually a minor weed of cultivation due to frequent soil disturbance but may become serious in unimproved pastures, especially where these are regularly overgrazed. It is also common in wasteland and other disturbed but unused areas.

S. indica is a probable host of cucumber mosaic cucumovirus in India (Mathew and Balakrishnan, 1991), and is a minor host for the lantana bug, Orthezia insignius (Srikanth et al., 1988).


Top of page S. jamaicensis has no significant uses. The dried leaves were at one time exported from Brazil to Europe as tea, and an infusion of the leaves is used medicinally in Southeast Asia (Holm et al. 1997). Mabberley (1997) reports that S. urticifolia has been used as a hedge plant in Africa. S mutabilis is grown as a minor garden ornamental in many tropical countries, and has occasionally become naturalized in southeast Queensland, Australia (Stanley and Ross 1986).

S. jamaicensis is available through a number of American internet sites as an ornamental, rain forest ornamental and medicinal plant.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page Several other species of Stachytarpheta are also widespread tropical weeds. Although all are generally similar to S. jamaicensis, they can usually be distinguished as follows:

S. cayennensis (= Verbena cayennensis, S. dichotoma) has thinner fruiting spikes (ca 2.5 mm diameter) is also now a pan-tropical weed and somewhat commoner than S. jamaicensis in Africa; it differs in having thinner fruiting spikes (ca. 2.5 mm diameter) with little swelling over the fruits; flowers are paler in colour, varying from mid to pale blue to almost white, and smaller, the tube 4 to 5 mm long (7 to 10 mm in S. jamaicensis) and limbs only 4 to 6 mm long.

S. indica (= S. bogorensis, Verbena indica), where it is dintinguished from S. jamaicensis has softer leaves with the lower margins of the middle leaf teeth at least twice as long as the upper margins, compared with S. jamaicensis in which the leaves are leathery and both sides of the middle leaf teeth are of similar length. This species occurs sporadically from Central America, through Africa and Asia to Australia.

S. urticifolia, occurring mainly in Central America and the Pacific, has soft thin leaves, unlike the rather leathery leaves of the other two species.

Further species of Stachytarpheta are occasionally found as weeds in the tropics and subtropics, including S. angustifolia, S. australis and S. mutabilis.

Prevention and Control

Top 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

S. jamaicensis and related species can be controlled by any form of cultivation which cuts the strong taproots and loosens the plant from the soil (ploughing, grubbing and hoeing, but not mowing). Although it tolerates light shade it is suppressed by heavy shade, as well as by strongly competitive plants such as vigorous twining legumes.

Chemical Control

Kostermans et al. (1987) report that seedlings and young plants can be killed by regular spraying with 2,4-D or MSMA plus 2,4-D. In Mauritian sugarcane germination has been prevented by diuron or atrazine and post-emergence control effected with picloram, paraquat or 2,4-D (McIntyre 1991). Challa (1984) prevented seedling germination in Indian mango root stock nurseries with oxyfluorfen, atrazine, diuron and fluchloralin. McIntyre and Barbe (1994) controlled this plant in citrus and mango nurseries in Mauritius with alternate treatments of glyphosate followed by Krovar 1 (a mixture of diuron and bromacil) + paraquat, or glyphosate followed by diuron and paraquat.

The following herbicides are registered for the control of Stachytarpheta spp. in Australia: 2,4-D sodium, and atrazine + dicamba in sugarcane, and 2,4-D amine in both pastures and uncropped land.

Biological Control

The potential for biological control of S. jamaicensis is discussed by Cock (1985).


Top of page

Barker RM, Telford IRH, 1993. Verbenaceae. In: Flora of Australia, Volume 50, Oceanic Islands 2. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publishing Service

Challa P, 1984. Chemical weed control in mango root stock nursery. Tropical Pest Management, 30(4):466-467

Chang TW, Lou KT, Lin RS, Chen CF, 1982. Weed control in developed pasture in Henchun area. Journal of the Taiwan Livestock Research, 15(1):79-91

Cock MJW (ed.), 1985. A review of biological control of pests in the Commonwealth Caribbean and Bermuda up to 1982. Farnham Royal, United Kingdom; Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, xii + 218 pp.

Florence J, Guerin M, Reboul JL, 1983. Weeds of French Polynesia (Les mauvaises herbes de la Polynesie Francaise). Compte Rendu de la 12e Conference du COLUMA. Tome I. Paris, France: Comite Francais de Lutte contre les Mauvaises Herbes, 427-432

Fournet J, Hammerton JL, 1991. Weeds of the Lesser Antilles. Paris, France: Department d'Economie et Sociologie Rurales, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique

Hancock IR, Henderson CP, 1988. Flora of the Solomon Islands. Research Bulletin No. 7. Honiara, Solomon Islands: Dodo Creek Research Station

Haselwood EL, Motter GG, 1966. Handbook of Hawaiian weeds [ed. by Haselwood EL, Motter GG]. Honolulu, HI, USA: Experiment Station/Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association, 479 pp

Henty EE, Pritchard GH, 1975. Weeds of New Guinea and their Control. Lp, Papua New Guinea: Department of Forests, Division of Botany, Botany Bulletin No.7

Hnatiuk RJ, 1990. Census of Australian Vascular Plants. Australian Flora and Fauna Series Number 11. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publishing Service

Holm LG, Doll J, Holm E, Pancho JV, Herberger JP, 1997. World Weeds: Natural Histories and Distribution. New York, USA: John Wiley & Sons Inc

Holm LG, Pancho JV, Herberger JP, Plucknett DL, 1991. A Geographic Atlas of World Weeds. Malabar, Florida, USA: Krieger Publishing Company

Kostermans AJGH, Wirjahardja S, Dekker RJ, 1987. The weeds: description, ecology and control. Weeds of rice in Indonesia [edited by Soerjani, M.; Kostermans, A.J.G.H.; Tjitrosoepomo, G.] Jakarta, Indonesia; Balai Pustaka, 24-565

Mabberley DJ, 1989. The Plant Book. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

MacKee HS, 1985. Les Plantes Introduites et Cultivees en Nouvelle-Caledonie. Volume hors series, Flore de la Nouvelle-Caledonie et Dependances. Paris, France: Museum Nationelle d'Histoire Naturelle

Mathew AV, Balakrishnan S, 1991. Mosaic disease of Stachytarpheta indica Vahl., a source of virus infection to crop plants. Madras Agricultural Journal, 78(1-4):27-31

McIntyre G, 1991. Weeds of Sugar Cane in Mauritius: Their Description and Control. Reduit, Mauritius: Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute

McIntyre G, Barbe C, 1994. Chemical v/s hand weeding in young citrus and mango orchards. Revue Agricole et Sucriere de l'Ile Maurice, 73:44-47

Pancho JV, Vega MR, Plucknett DL, 1969. Some Common Weeds of the Philippines. Laguna, Philippines: Weed Science Society of the Philippines, University of the Philippines at Los Ba±os

Sharma SR, Singh SJ, 1988. Stachytarpheta witches' broom - a mycoplasmal disease. Indian Journal of Virology, 4(1-2):87-90

Smith CS, 1991. Snakeweed (Stachytarpheta spp.). Agnote (Darwin), No. 457:2 pp

Srikanth J, Mallikarjunappa S, Kumar P, Reddy GVP, 1988. Record of new hosts for lantana bug. Current Research - University of Agricultural Sciences (Bangalore), 17(5):60-61; 10 ref

Stanley TD, Ross EM, 1986. Flora of South-eastern Queensland, Volume 2. Brisbane, Australia: Queensland Department of Primary Industries, 366

Tadulingam C, Venkatanarayana G, Mudaliar CR, Rao JS, 1955. A Handbook of Some South Indian Weeds. Madras, India: Government Press, 330-331

USDA-ARS, 1999. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Database. Beltsville, Maryland, USA: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory.

Waterhouse DF, Norris KR, 1987. Biological control: Pacific prospects. viii + 454pp

Wells MJ, Balsinhas AA, Joffe H, Engelbrecht VM, Harding G, Stirton CH, 1986. A catalogue of problem plants in South Africa. Memoirs of the botanical survey of South Africa No 53. Pretoria, South Africa: Botanical Research Institute

Whistler WA, 1983. Weed handbook of Western Polynesia. Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft fnr Technische Zusammenarbeit, 157 pp

Witt, A., Luke, Q., 2017. Guide to the naturalized and invasive plants of Eastern Africa, [ed. by Witt, A., Luke, Q.]. Wallingford, UK: + 601 pp. doi:10.1079/9781786392145.0000

Links to Websites

Top of page
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

Distribution Maps

Top of page
You can pan and zoom the map
Save map