Invasive Species Compendium

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Datasheet

Tetragonia tetragonioides
(New Zealand spinach)

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Datasheet

Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 08 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Tetragonia tetragonioides
  • Preferred Common Name
  • New Zealand spinach
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • T. tetragonioides is a leafy herb native to the Far East, parts of Australia, New Zealand and some Pacific Islands. It has been introduced to Africa, the Americas, Europe and parts of Asia. It is considered inv...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February, 2005.
TitleHabit
CaptionTetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February, 2005.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February, 2005.
HabitTetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February, 2005.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit. Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March, 2004.
TitleHabit
CaptionTetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit. Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March, 2004.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit. Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March, 2004.
HabitTetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit. Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March, 2004.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit and leaves. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February, 2005.
TitleHabit and leaves
CaptionTetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit and leaves. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February, 2005.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit and leaves. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February, 2005.
Habit and leavesTetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); habit and leaves. Mokuauia, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. February, 2005.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); flowers and leaves. Keanae, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July, 2009.
TitleFlowers and leaves
CaptionTetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); flowers and leaves. Keanae, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July, 2009.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); flowers and leaves. Keanae, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July, 2009.
Flowers and leavesTetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); flowers and leaves. Keanae, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July, 2009.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); close-up of single flower. Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March, 2004.
TitleFlower
CaptionTetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); close-up of single flower. Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March, 2004.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Tetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); close-up of single flower. Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March, 2004.
FlowerTetragonia tetragonioides (New Zealand spinach); close-up of single flower. Kanaha Beach, Maui, Hawaii, USA. March, 2004.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Tetragonia tetragonioides (Pall.) Kuntze

Preferred Common Name

  • New Zealand spinach

Other Scientific Names

  • Demidovia tatragonioides Pallas, Enum. Hort. Demidof 150, t. 1. 1781.
  • Tatragonia cornuta Gaertner, Fruct. Sem. Pl. 2: 483. 1791.
  • Tetragonia expansa Murray, Commentat. Soc. Regiae Sci. Gott. 6: 13. 1783
  • Tetragonia expansa THUNB. ex MURR.
  • Tetragonia halimifolia G. Foster, Fl. Ins. Austr. 39. 1786.
  • Tetragonia inermis 1852. F. Mueller, Linnaea 25: 384.
  • Tetragonia japonica Thunberg, Fl. Jap. 208. 1784.
  • Tetragonia quadricornis Stokes, Bot. Mat. Med. 3: 127. 1812, nom. illegit.
  • Tetragonia tetragonoides

International Common Names

  • English: New Zealand spinach; perpetual spinach; sea spinach
  • Spanish: espinaca de Nueva Zelandia; Espinacia de Nueva Zelandica; spinaca Nuevo Zelandia
  • French: epinard; Epinard de la Nouvelle-Zelande; tetragon; tetragone; tetragone cornue
  • Chinese: xin xi lan bo cai; yeung poh tsoi
  • Portuguese: espinafre de Nova Zelandia

Local Common Names

  • : Novozelandskii shipinat; tetragonia shpinatnaia
  • : summer spinach
  • Australia: Botany Bay greens; Sydney greens; warrigal cabbage; warrigal cabbage; warrigal greens; warrigal spinach
  • Brazil: espinafre da Nova Zelandia
  • Croatia: Novozealandski shpinat
  • Denmark: Newzealandsk spinat
  • Germany: Neuseelaender Spinat; Neuseelandischer spinat
  • Greece: spanaki Neas Zilandias
  • Hungary: Ujzelandi paraj
  • Italy: spinacio della Nouva Zelanda; Spinacio della Nouva-Zelande
  • Japan: tsuruna; Tsuruna
  • Netherlands: Nieuwzeelandse spinazie; Niewzeelandse Spinazie
  • New Zealand: kokihi; paraihia; rengamutu; rengarenga; tutae-ika-moana
  • Norway: Ny-Zealandsk spinat
  • Philippines: baguio spinach
  • Poland: szpinak Nowozelandzki
  • Serbia: Novozelandski spanac(h)
  • Slovenia: Novozelandska schpinacha
  • South Africa: Nu Zeeland spinasie
  • Sweden: Ny-seelaendisk spenat; Nyzeelandsk spenat
  • Switzerland: neuseelander-spinat

EPPO code

  • TEATE (Tetragonia tetragonioides)

Summary of Invasiveness

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T. tetragonioides is a leafy herb native to the Far East, parts of Australia, New Zealand and some Pacific Islands. It has been introduced to Africa, the Americas, Europe and parts of Asia. It is considered invasive in coastal habitats in Chile, Hawaii, Florida and California, and is one of several principal invaders in Reunion. The strongest case for its invasiveness is made in California, where it is controlled in natural areas. T. tetragonioides establishes in and competes with coastal, beach, dune, cliff and salt marsh vegetation. It is naturalized mainly in frost free coastal climates but it persists after cultivation in cold climates, such as in northern USA and Europe.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Caryophyllales
  •                         Family: Aizoaceae
  •                             Genus: Tetragonia
  •                                 Species: Tetragonia tetragonioides

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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A variety of latin binomials have been used for the New Zealand spinach Tetragonia tetragonioides (currently accepted). The most frequent synonym in the literature is Tetragonia expansa, and there may be as much literature referring to the latter as to the former.

Description

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From Vivrette (2004):

Stems: mat-forming, spreading to 30-140 cm. Leaves: 10-100 by 50-50 mm; petiole 10-30 mm, winged; blade pale green abaxially, dark green adaxially, midvein and lateral veins raised abaxially, ovate-rhombic to triangular, base truncate, papillate with larger papillae abaxially. Inflorescences: peduncle to 2 mm. Flowers: sometimes unisexual; calyx lobes spreading, yellow, ovate to half orbiculate, 2 mm; stamens clustered or scattered. Fruits: turbinate, 8-12 mm; horns 4-6. Seeds: smooth.

From Morris and Duretto (2009):

Annual or perennial herb, decumbent or ascending; stems to 1 m long. Leaves broadly hastate, rhomboid or lanceolate; petiole 10–45 mm long, papillose, decurrent; blade 10–80(–100?) mm long, 5–50 mm wide, dark green above, paler below with larger papillae. Flowers axillary, solitary or rarely 2 together, 8–10 mm diam.; pedicels to 5 mm long. Calyx lobes 4–5, 1 or 2 of them ovate-semiorbicular, larger than the rest, the smaller lobes ovate-triangular to lanceolate, obtuse or acute; adaxial surface yellowish, minutely papillose; abaxial surface green, papillose. Stamens 8–16, in groups alternating with the calyx lobes. Stigmas 3–8(–10?) in 2 groups, equal in number to the loculi. Fruit indehiscent, at first green, becoming dry and bony, to 13 mm long and 12 mm wide, globular or turbinate variously ridged at the summit; ridges produced into short equal or unequal horns. Seeds in 2 rows, c. 2.5 mm long, pyriform. Flowering and fruiting throughout year.

Plant Type

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Broadleaved
Herbaceous
Perennial
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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T. tetragonioides has been introduced to Africa, the Americas, Europe, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and the Philippines. It is widespread in Europe. Its seeds have been on sale in London since 1835 or earlier, and it was recorded in unlikely places such as Switzerland fairly early on after its initial introduction to Europe (Déséglise, 1881). Its popularity as an easy-to-grow spinach alternative means its introduced range is most likely larger than indicated in the distribution table. 

There are disagreements over its native range. It seems that most agree that it is native from the Far East south to Australia (e.g. Harris, 1998; Hara et al., 2008; Morris and Duretto, 2009). Most accounts now regard it as non-native and naturalized in South America, including Chile (Reiche and Philippi, 1898; Zuloaga and Morrone, 1996; Ugarte et al., 2011; Missouri Botanical Garden, 2013; Zappi, 2014). However, older accounts still hold some influence in the literature, and its nativity in Chile and Argentina is still frequently claimed (Sturtevant, 1919; Roskruge, 2011). Occasionally the plant is claimed as native to Africa (e.g. Ugarte et al., 2011), but probably more because of the prevalence of the genus and the family in South Africa than due to a knowledge of the phylogeography of the species itself. In Australia, T. tetragonioides has established in New South Wales and Tasmania, the two states it is not native to (Randall, 2007).

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

ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-FujianPresentNative Not invasive eFloras, 2013Sandy shores, also cultivated
-GuangdongPresentNative Not invasive eFloras, 2013Sandy shores, also cultivated
-JiangsuPresentNative Not invasive eFloras, 2013; eFloras, 2013Sandy shores, also cultivated
-YunnanPresentNative Not invasive eFloras, 2013Sandy shores, also cultivated
-ZhejiangPresentNative Not invasive eFloras, 2013Sandy shores, also cultivated
IndonesiaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2013
IranPresent2012IntroducedHosseini et al., 2012Cultivated in experiments
IsraelPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive APHIS, 2004Crop exported to US
JapanPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HokkaidoPresent only in captivity/cultivationNative Not invasive Ohwi, 1965South west of region
-HonshuPresent only in captivity/cultivationNative Not invasive Ohwi, 1965Common sometimes cultivated as vegetable
-ShikokuPresent only in captivity/cultivationNative Not invasive Ohwi, 1965
Korea, Republic ofPresent only in captivity/cultivationNative Not invasive Kim, 2005Very common native plant on dunes in Korea
MyanmarPresentNative Not invasive Kress et al., 2003
PhilippinesPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2013
TaiwanPresentNative Not invasive eFloras, 2013Sandy shores, also cultivated

Africa

Cape VerdeUnconfirmed recordCAB Abstracts
KenyaPresentIntroducedGrubben and Denton, 2004Has escaped from cultivation in some places
MadagascarPresent1955IntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2013Littoral Ford Dauphin ocean edge
MauritiusPresent1993Introduced Invasive Bullock et al., 2003Became rare after invasive browsers were removed
MoroccoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2013Adventive
MozambiquePresentIntroducedGrubben and Denton, 2004Has escaped from cultivation in some places
RéunionWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Soubeyran, 2008In a list of the principal invasive species
RwandaPresentIntroducedGrubben and Denton, 2004Has escaped from cultivation in some places
Saint HelenaPresentIntroducedCronk, 1983Single herbarium specimen
SenegalPresentIntroducedGrubben and Denton, 2004Has escaped from cultivation in some places
SomaliaPresentIntroducedGrubben and Denton, 2004Has escaped from cultivation in some places
South AfricaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013Eastern region coastal site
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013Not listed as invasive by others (Arevalo et al., 2005)
UgandaPresentIntroducedGrubben and Denton, 2004Has escaped from cultivation in some places
ZambiaPresentIntroducedGrubben and Denton, 2004Has escaped from cultivation in some places
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedGrubben and Denton, 2004Has escaped from cultivation in some places

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2013Cultivated and established on an upper beach
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-CaliforniaLocalisedIntroduced1891 Invasive Robbins, 1940; Harris, 1998; Wishner, 1998Recorded wild at this date
-ConnecticutPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013
-DelawareLocalisedIntroduced Not invasive Weakley, 2012Persistent after cultivation
-FloridaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Zomlefer et al., 2007; Wunderlin and Hansen, 2014Established on dunes and in salt marsh
-GeorgiaLocalisedIntroduced Not invasive Weakley, 2012Persistent after cultivation
-HawaiiLocalised2014Introduced1909 Invasive Herbst and Wagner, 1992; Wester, 1992; Starr and Starr, 2006; Imada, 2012
-MarylandPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013
-New YorkPresentIntroducedKartesz, 2013
-North CarolinaLocalisedIntroduced Not invasive Weakley, 2012Persistent after cultivation
-OhioPresentIntroducedKartesz, 2013
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedKartesz, 2013
-OregonPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedGBIF, 2013; Kartesz, 2013
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedKartesz, 2013
-WisconsinLocalisedIntroducedWisflora, 2014Adventive, found in strawberry patch

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2013Adventive in abandoned lot
GuadeloupePresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013
NicaraguaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden, 2013Cultivated
Puerto RicoPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012Cultivated

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedZuloaga and Morrone, 1996; GBIF, 2013
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-ParanaLocalisedIntroducedZappi, 2014Naturalised
-Rio de JaneiroLocalisedIntroducedZappi, 2014Naturalised
-Santa CatarinaLocalisedIntroducedZappi, 2014Naturalised
-Sao PauloLocalisedIntroducedZappi, 2014Naturalised
ChileLocalised2011Introduced Invasive Reiche and Philippi, 1898; Ugarte et al., 2011; PIER, 2014Cultivated and wild
-Easter IslandWidespreadNative Not invasive Meyer, 2009
EcuadorPresent only in captivity/cultivation2010Introduced Not invasive Guézou et al., 2007First recorded in Galapagos Islands in 2003 during alien plant inventories. Found on Isabela, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal
PeruPresentMacbride, 1937Arequipa, widely cultivated
UruguayPresentMorong and Britton, 1893; Alonso and Bassagoda, 2003Mentioned as occurring Uruguay

Europe

BelgiumPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013
Czech RepublicPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013
FrancePresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013Established on dunes in Bordeaux on coast
HungaryLocalisedIntroducedTempére, 1920
NetherlandsPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013
PortugalPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013
SpainWidespreadIntroducedCampos and Herrera, 2010; GBIF, 2013
-Balearic IslandsPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013
SwitzerlandPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced Not invasive Déséglise, 1881
UKLocalisedIntroducedHanson and Mason, 1985Associated with bird seed in Britain
-Channel IslandsLocalisedIntroducedHalvorson, 1992Not considered problematic by this author but widely scattered and in disturbed sites

Oceania

AustraliaWidespreadNative Invasive Randall, 2007Naturalised within Australia outside of its native range
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentNative Not invasive Morris, 2009
-New South WalesLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Downey et al., 2010Low priority invasive species
-QueenslandPresentNative Not invasive Morris, 2009
-South AustraliaPresentNative Not invasive Barker, 1970; Harris and Facelli, 2003; Nicol et al., 2009
-TasmaniaPresentNative Not invasive Morris, 2009
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2013
French PolynesiaPresentNative Not invasive PIER, 2014
New CaledoniaPresentNativeGBIF, 2013
New ZealandWidespreadNative Not invasive Allan, 1961
Norfolk IslandPresentNative Not invasive Coyne, 2010Mentioned related to Philip Island invasive animal removal recovery

History of Introduction and Spread

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T. tetragonioides is regarded as native in from China and Korea to Japan, Australia and New Zealand (Allan et al., 1961; Ohwi, 1965; Kim, 2005; Morris and Duretto, 2009; eFloras, 2013). It is probably native in other sites in between these countries as it can spread naturally via ocean currents (Abe, 2006). However, this ability to spread by ocean currents is shared by others in the genus, which could potentially lead to an overestimation of its native range.

It was collected in South America in 1847 (Ugarte et al., 2011); by some accounts, T. tetragonioides may be native in South America (Morong and Britton, 1893; Sturtevant, 1919; Roskruge, 2011), but now most authors now class it as a cultivated, adventive or naturalized plant there (Macbride and Dahlgren, 1937; Zuloaga and Morrone, 1996; Ugarte et al., 2011; Zappi, 2014).

T. tetragonioides was reported by Captain Cook and eaten by his crew in 1770. Joseph Banks is credited with giving seeds to Kew Botanic Gardens, UK, in 1772, and by 1824 it was on sale in London. It then probably spread throughout Europe rather quickly (Sturtevant, 1919). Wild populations were established in France in the 1920s (Tempére, 1920).

T. tetragonioides was on sale in New York in seed catalogues in 1828 after initially being spread by members of a horticultural society (Sturtevant, 1919; Roskruge, 2011). It was recorded wild in California in 1891 and Hawaii in 1909. It was already known in South America by the mid to late 1800s (Morong and Britton, 1893; Reiche and Philippi, 1898; Sturtevant, 1919; Ugarte et al., 2011).

The timing of the spread is harder to pinpoint in Africa, but it is clearly widely planted there (Grubben, 2004). Its suitability as a vegetable in coastal habitats means that it has been introduced to many oceanic islands for human consumption (PIER, 2014). By all accounts the plant is probably more widely distributed than is documented here. 

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
California <1891 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Robbins (1940)
Chile <1898
Galapagos Islands <2003 Horticulture (pathway cause) No Guézou et al. (2010) Probably introduced no earlier than 1940s when significant settlement started only known from inhabited islands
Hawaii <1909 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Wester (1992)
UK New Zealand 1772 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Sturtevant (1919)
USA UK 1828 Horticulture (pathway cause)Sturtevant (1919)

Risk of Introduction

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T. tetragonioides is most likely to be introduced to new sites by gardeners wishing to grow it, and its seeds are available via internet and catalogue mail-order. The seeds are easily transported and remain viable for long periods in storage. Spread from one river flood plain or coastal site to another is also possible since the seeds are known to disperse via fresh and salt water currents (Abe, 2006; Nicol et al., 2009); though not strictly a halophyte, T. tetragonioides is reasonably salt tolerant (Roskruge, 2011).

Habitat

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T. tetragonioides is generally associated with coastal habitats in its native and introduced invasive range. It grows well on dunes, beaches, salt marshes, coastal cliffs and other coastal locations (Abe, 2006; Robbins, 1940; Roskruge, 2011). It is naturalized mainly in frost free coastal climates but it persists after cultivation in cold climates, such as in northern USA and Europe. It may also persist unassisted in abandoned gardens, or spread slowly from any place it is planted.

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Brackish
Estuaries Principal habitat Natural
Estuaries Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Freshwater
Irrigation channels Present, no further details Natural
Irrigation channels Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Rivers / streams Present, no further details Natural
Rivers / streams Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Littoral
Coastal areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Principal habitat Natural
Coastal areas Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Coastal dunes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal dunes Principal habitat Natural
Coastal dunes Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Salt marshes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Salt marshes Principal habitat Natural
Salt marshes Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Natural
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Natural
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Principal habitat Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rocky areas / lava flows Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Chromosome number 2n = 32

Reproductive biology

T. tetragonioides is predominantly self-pollinated but cross-pollination may occur (Grubben, 2004). The fruits fall to the ground on ripening so it can reseed itself. Germination can be irregular but generally takes less than 20 days, and may occur naturally in spring in either temperate or cold climates (Roskruge, 2011). Under cultivation plants reached harvestable size 50-55 days after planting (Roskruge, 2011).

Physiology and phenology

Germination takes up to 20 days and first flowers 59-63 days after planting. Late maturing plants can produce an abundance of seeds (Roskruge, 2011).

Associations

T. tetragonioides is associated with coastal plants such as beach morning glory, Ipomoea imperati.

Environmental requirements

T. tetragonioides prefers mesic conditions but there is evidence that it is drought tolerant (Hara et al., 2008). It grows well on dunes, beaches, salt marshes and other coastal locations (Abe, 2006; Robbins, 1940; Roskruge, 2011). Plants are reasonably salt-tolerant, though seedlings may not withstand as much salt as mature plants. T. tetragonioides is also tolerant of a variety of soil types, preferring pH 5.8-7.5 (Roskruge, 2011). It is reported to prefer frost-free sites (Grubben, 2004; Roskruge, 2011), although it may encounter frost in parts of its native range, and can persist after cultivation in much colder sites (such as Wisconsin, Connecticut, Oregon and Washington, USA, and Suffolk, UK), suggesting that as long as it can flower and fruit in a single growing season, the seeds will not be killed by freezing temperatures.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 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 Tolerated < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Preferred < 860mm precipitation annually
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 Preferred Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)

Soil Tolerances

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Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile
  • saline
  • shallow

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Alternaria alternata Pathogen Whole plant not specific
Aphis gossypii Herbivore Leaves not specific
Botryotinia fuckeliana Pathogen Whole plant not specific
Brevipalpus californicus not specific
Helminthosporium Pathogen Whole plant not specific
Heterodera schachtii not specific
Meloidogyne hapla Parasite Roots not specific
Meloidogyne incognita Parasite Roots not specific
Meloidogyne javanica Parasite Roots not specific
Myzus persicae Herbivore Leaves not specific
Tetranychus urticae Herbivore Leaves not specific
Verticillium albo-atrum Pathogen Whole plant not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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None of the pests in the Natural Enemies table are described as serious pests of T. tetragonioides (Roskruge, 2011). Some of the natural enemies can carry pathogens of potatoes; specifically, Helminthosporium sp. is commonly known as silver scurf in potatoes, and Verticillium alboatrum is a wilt disease found on potatoes (APHIS, 2004; Roskruge, 2011).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural dispersal (non-biotic)

The floating horned seeds of T. tetragonioides can be transported by water, including rivers and oceans (Abe, 2006; Nicol et al., 2009). Plants have established on a recently formed volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean, near Japan, apparently from seed transported naturally on ocean currents (Abe, 2006).

Vector transmission (biotic)

T. tetragonioides has not been associated with animal dispersal in the literature, but transport of plants for bird nesting materials could be possible, as could ingestion by tortoises.

Accidental introduction

Plants have been dispersed in bird seed in Britain (Hanson and Mason, 1985).

Intentional introduction

This plant has been deliberately introduced around the world as an easy-to-grow spinach alternative (Sturtevant, 1919; Cambie and Ferguson, 2003; Roskruge, 2011).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Botanical gardens and zoose.g. Kew Garden is likely source for plants in Europe Yes Yes Sturtevant, 1919
Flooding and other natural disastersFloodplain plant in native range Yes Yes Nicol et al., 2009
Garden waste disposalCommon garden plant worldwide Yes Grubben and Denton, 2004; Roskruge, 2011; Sturtevant, 1919
HorticultureCommon garden plant worldwide Yes Yes Grubben and Denton, 2004; Roskruge, 2011
Internet salesCommon garden plant worldwide, and long available in gardening catalogues Yes Grubben and Denton, 2004; Roskruge, 2011; Sturtevant, 1919
Medicinal usePossible since it is known as an ulcer reducer Yes Cambie and Ferguson, 2003; Okuyama and Yamazaki, 1983
Nursery tradeCommon garden plant worldwide, and long available in gardening catalogues Yes Yes Grubben and Denton, 2004; Roskruge, 2011; Sturtevant, 1919
Pet tradeBird seed Yes Yes Hanson and Mason, 1985
Seed tradeCommon garden plant worldwide, and long available in gardening catalogues Yes Yes Grubben and Denton, 2004; Roskruge, 2011; Sturtevant, 1919

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Floating vegetation and debrisSeeds known to float in water - principal natural dispersal mechanism Yes Abe, 2006
LuggageUnknown frequency but it is a desirable garden plant Yes Yes
MailAvailable for sale in plant catalogues in the 1800s Yes Yes Roskruge, 2011
Soil, sand and gravelPossible since it grows on dunes Yes Yes Kim, 2005
WaterThis is the natural means of dispersal Yes Yes Abe, 2006

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Growing medium accompanying plants Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Leaves Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches Yes Yes Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope
Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport
Bark
Bulbs/Tubers/Corms/Rhizomes
Fruits (inc. pods)
True seeds (inc. grain)
Wood

Impact Summary

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

Economic Impact

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There are no reports of T. tetragonioides impacting crops. Costs of control in terms of labour and herbicide costs are not recorded. It is grown as a crop in Israel, and as a common garden plant around the world (APHIS, 2004; Grubben, 2004; Roskruge, 2011).

Environmental Impact

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Impact on habitats

T. tetragonioides is known to establish significant populations in coastal habitats outside of its native range, including dunes, salt marshes and coastal cliffs in Hawaii, Florida, California and Reunion (Robbins, 1940; Starr and Starr, 2006; Zomlefer et al., 2007Soubeyran, 2008).

Impact on biodiversity

The spread of T. tetragonioides outside of its native range in coastal habitats is not associated with many accounts of its negative impacts on individual species. The spreading habit (almost vine-like) and abundant fleshy leaves of T. tetragonioides give it significant competitive ability. It competes with common native plants like Ipomoea imperati on white sand beaches in Hawaii (Rick Warshauer USGS-Biological Resources Division, Kilauea, Hawaii). It is one of several dominant species in Korean dunes (Kim, 2005).

 

Social Impact

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T. tetragonioides is a common garden plant around the world and has potential medicinal applications (Okuyama and Yamazaki, 1983Cambie and Ferguson, 2003APHIS, 2004; Grubben, 2004; Roskruge, 2011).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of successional patterns
  • Monoculture formation
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - shading
  • Competition - smothering
  • Competition - strangling
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Interaction with other invasive species
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant

Uses

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Economic value

T. tetragonoides is rarely cultivated as a crop for sale in large quantities, though it appears to have been imported into the United States from Israel for sale (APHIS, 2004), and may occasionally be sold in markets in Africa (Grubben, 2004). It is cultivated worldwide by gardeners as an easy to grow leafy green.

Social benefit

The fresh shoots of T. tetragonoides can be eaten raw, but leaves are generally cooked. 100 grams of T. tetragonoides is 94 g water, protein 1.5 g, fat 0.2 g, carbohydrate 2.5 g, Ca 58 mg, P 28 mg, Fe 0.8 mg, vitamin A 4400 IU, thiamin 0.04 mg, riboflavin 0.13 mg, niacin 0.5 mg, folate 15 µg and ascorbic acid 30 mg; it provides 59 kJ or 14 calories (Grubben, 2004). However, much of the calcium is present as oxalates and not available to the human body. Eating it raw has been discouraged because of the high saponin content (Grubben, 2004).

Uses List

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Environmental

  • Wildlife habitat

General

  • Sociocultural value

Human food and beverage

  • Vegetable

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Detection and Inspection

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A number of floras describe T. tetragonioides (Allan et al., 1961; Ohwi, 1965; Morris and Duretto, 2009; eFloras, 2013). It has been described in a dichotomous key for agricultural seeds available in German and translated into English (Brouwen and Stahlin, 1980).The distinctive horned 4-chambered seeds could be relatively easy to spot for someone familiar with the species.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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The climbing New Zealand spinach, Tetragoniatrigyna Banks and Sol. ex Hook.f., has smaller leaves and stems than T. tetragonioides (Roskruge, 2011).

Prevention and Control

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Rapid response

Small populations have been controlled manually on Midway and Farrolon Islands, in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (Forest Starr, pers. comm. Starr Environmental, Maui Hawaii, 2013)

Public awareness

T. tetragonioides is included in some websites documenting invasive species, such as PIER (2014).

Physical/mechanical control

Plants can be pulled up, although the effectiveness of this has not been reported.

Chemical control

Control with glyphosate may be effective based on other plants in Aizoaceae (DiTomaso, 2013).

Control by utilization

Not likely to be effective considering that growers of T. tetragonioides are most likely to harvest leaves and shoots for food rather than pulling whole plants.

Ecosystem restoration

Removal of T. tetragonioides coupled with planting of desirable plants and shrubs may prevent it establishing in the seedbank.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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The natural and human mediated spread of T. tetragonioides is not well documented: it was claimed as native in South America by some authors but it appears that botanists in South America now regard it as non-native. Genetic sequencing of wild populations and cultivated plants throughout its range could give insights into the spread of the plant. The claim that the plants in Europe were sourced via seeds that were brought back to England by Sir Joseph Banks could be investigated.

References

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Contributors

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17/03/14 Original text by:

Christopher Buddenhagen, Florida State University, USA

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