Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Argemone mexicana
(Mexican poppy)



Argemone mexicana (Mexican poppy)


  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Argemone mexicana
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Mexican poppy
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. mexicana is a widespread annual weed primarily associated with agricultural crops and wastelands. It is a major weed of a number of crops in the tropics and warm temperate regions and is persistent as it produces a seed bank. In India in particula...

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Argemone mexicana (mexican poppy); flower
CaptionArgemone mexicana (mexican poppy); flower
Copyright©B. Navez - CC BY-SA 3.0
Argemone mexicana (mexican poppy); flower
flowerArgemone mexicana (mexican poppy); flower©B. Navez - CC BY-SA 3.0
Close-up of foliage and flower.
TitleFoliage and flower
CaptionClose-up of foliage and flower.
Copyright©A.R. Pittaway
Close-up of foliage and flower.
Foliage and flowerClose-up of foliage and flower.©A.R. Pittaway
Close-up of foliage and flower.
TitleFoliage and flower
CaptionClose-up of foliage and flower.
Copyright©A.R. Pittaway
Close-up of foliage and flower.
Foliage and flowerClose-up of foliage and flower.©A.R. Pittaway
Flowering A. mexicana (up to 1.5 m).
TitleMexican poppy in flower
CaptionFlowering A. mexicana (up to 1.5 m).
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
Flowering A. mexicana (up to 1.5 m).
Mexican poppy in flowerFlowering A. mexicana (up to 1.5 m).©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
Mexican poppy (A. mexicana) seedlings.
CaptionMexican poppy (A. mexicana) seedlings.
Copyright©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK
Mexican poppy (A. mexicana) seedlings.
SeedlingsMexican poppy (A. mexicana) seedlings.©Chris Parker/Bristol, UK


Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Argemone mexicana L. (1753)

Preferred Common Name

  • Mexican poppy

International Common Names

  • English: Mexican pricklepoppy; Mexican pricklypoppy; Mexican thistle; prickly poppy; yellow thistle
  • Spanish: adormidera espinosa; cardo blanco; chicalote
  • French: argémone du Mexique; argemone mexicaine; pavot epineux
  • Portuguese: papoula-do-Mexico

Local Common Names

  • Argentina: cardo amarillo
  • Bangladesh: Shialkata
  • Brazil: cardo-amarelo; cardo-santa; cardo-santa-maria; figo-do-inferno; papoula-de-espinho; papoula-espinhosa
  • Germany: Mexikanischer Stachelmohn
  • Haiti: chardon béni
  • India: agara; bharband; bharbhar; brahamadandi; bramandandu; kantakusama; katelisatyanasi; satyonasi
  • Indonesia: droedjoe; tjelangkringan
  • Italy: papavero messicano
  • Japan: Azami-Geshi
  • Kenya: ekijembajembe; mkumajalaga
  • Mauritius: chardon du pays
  • Mexico: chicalote
  • Myanmar: kye-ja
  • Netherlands: stekelpapaver
  • Niger: Boginahi; Dàyí gííwáá; Hákóórín kádà; Káákí rúwàn Allàh; Kàankámárkà tà bíí kà; kamukamu; Kánkààmáá; Karanko; Kùùrár fataakee; Kwarakko; Kwaranko; Wagiri; Wasiri
  • Nigeria: Boginahi; Dàyí gííwáá; Hákóórín kádà; Káákí rúwàn Allàh; Kàankámárkà tà bíí kà; kamukamu; Kánkààmáá; Karanko; Kùùrár fataakee; Kwarakko; Kwaranko; Wagiri; Wasiri
  • Pakistan: kanderi; kundiari; sialkanta
  • Paraguay: Cardo santo
  • Puerto Rico: cardosanto
  • South Africa: yellow-flowered Mexican poppy
  • Zimbabwe: umjelemani

EPPO code

  • ARGME (Argemone mexicana)

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page A. mexicana is a widespread annual weed primarily associated with agricultural crops and wastelands. It is a major weed of a number of crops in the tropics and warm temperate regions and is persistent as it produces a seed bank. In India in particular, the species is a health hazard and because of its prickliness, is a nuisance to subsistence farmers.

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Papaverales
  •                         Family: Papaveraceae
  •                             Genus: Argemone
  •                                 Species: Argemone mexicana

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Argemone is from the Greek argena, meaning 'cataract of the eye', and was the name used in the first century AD by the classical authors Dioscorides (AD 40-90) and Pliny (AD 23-79) for some spiny poppies, the juice of which was supposedly a cure for cataract; mexicana combines Mexico with the Latin suffix ana, belonging to, suggesting the country of origin (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).


Top of page A. mexicana is an annual herb, up to 150 cm tall with a slightly branched tap root. The stem is erect, branched, usually prickly, pale bluish-green and exudes an unpleasant-smelling yellow sap when cut. Leaves are alternate, without petioles, more or less sheathing the stem, up to 15 cm long, deeply lobed with irregularly toothed, spiny margins; greyish-white veins are conspicuous on the bluish-green upper surface of the leaves. Flowers are solitary, 2.5-4.5 cm in diameter, subtended by 1-2 leafy bracts; sepals 3, prickly; petals 4-6, yellow to pale orange, glabrous; stamens numerous. Fruit is a capsule, spiny, 2.5-5 cm long and 2 cm wide, with 4-6 valves opening at the tip to release numerous seeds. Seeds are brownish-black, nearly spherical, about 1 mm in diameter, covered in a fine network of veins, oily.

A. mexicana forma leiocarpa is a form found in West Africa which has few or no prickles on the stem, leaves and capsule (Lucas, 1962).

Plant Type

Top of page Annual
Seed propagated


Top of page A. mexicana is native to tropical America but its native range is a matter of debate. It is thought that its natural distribution in Northern America included Mexico and southern Florida (Ownbey, 1997). It is probably native to much of South America but Mayworm et al. (1998) have stated that A. mexicana is an introduced and naturalized species in Brazil. Its distribution and status in tropical and warm regions of the world are likely to be seriously under-reported. As the species has probably often been confused with A. ochroleuca and even A. subfusiformis, its world distribution and abundance must be viewed with some caution. In Europe it was reported as being present in Bulgaria and Spain by Mowat (1964) but Greuter et al. (1989) stated that it was absent and reported in error.

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


BahrainPresentIntroducedMiller and Cope, 1996
BangladeshWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Holm et al., 1979; Islam et al., 2003
BhutanPresentIntroducedParker, 1992
ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Hong KongPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
Christmas Island (Indian Ocean)WidespreadIntroduced Invasive DEH, 2002
IndiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroducedChitra et al., 1997
-BiharWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Singh et al., 1999
-ChandigarhWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Ramakrishnan and Gupta, 1972
-DelhiWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Inderjit, 2002
-GujaratPresentIntroducedPatel et al., 1993
-KarnatakaPresentIntroduced Invasive von Weizsõckerl, 1995
-Madhya PradeshPresentIntroducedParadkar et al., 1989
-MaharashtraPresentIntroducedKatole and Mundiwale, 1995
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedShanmughave, 1995
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedShah et al., 1992
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1992; Moody, 1989
IsraelPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Greuter et al., 1989
JapanPresentIntroducedWu et al., 2004
-Ryukyu ArchipelagoIndigenous, localizedIntroduced Not invasive Walker, 1976
NepalPresentIntroducedRanjit and Bhattarai, 1988
OmanPresentIntroducedMiller and Cope, 1996
PakistanPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; Mahmood, 1987
Saudi ArabiaPresentIntroducedAbdel Hafez, 1985
SyriaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Greuter et al., 1989
YemenWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Miller and Cope, 1996


BotswanaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Phillips, 1991; Karikari et al., 2000
EgyptWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Boulos and El-Hadidi, 1984; Greuter et al., 1989
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedStroud and Parker, 1989; Karlsson et al., 2003
GhanaPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1989
KenyaPresentIntroducedTerry and Michieka, 1987
MadagascarPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
MalawiPresentIntroducedBanda and Morris, 1986
MauritaniaPresentMcIntyre, 1991
MauritiusWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Vaughan and Wiehe, 1937; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
MozambiquePresentIntroducedExell, 1960
NigerPresentIntroducedBlench, 2003
NigeriaPresentIntroducedBlench, 2003
Saint HelenaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Ashmole and Ashmole, 2000
Sao Tome and PrincipePresentIntroduced Invasive Exell, 1944
SenegalPresentIntroducedBerhaut, 1967
SeychellesPresentIntroducedRobertson, 1989
South AfricaPresentIntroducedHenderson and Anderson, 1966
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedde Lorenzo Caceres, unda
SwazilandPresentIntroducedWells et al., 1986
TanzaniaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Terry and Michieka, 1987; Katagira, 2002
UgandaPresentTerry and Michieka, 1987
ZambiaPresentIntroducedTerry and Michieka, 1987
ZimbabweWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Exell, 1960; Hyde and Wursten, 2002

North America

CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-OntarioPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
MexicoPresentNativeHolm et al., 1979
USAPresentHolm et al., 1979
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-ConnecticutPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-FloridaPresentNativeOwnbey, 1997
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedWester, 1992
-IllinoisPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-IndianaPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-KansasWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Ownbey, unda; Hitchcock and Clothier, 1898
-LouisianaPresentOwnbey, unda; Pammel, 1913; Brown, 1972
-MarylandPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-MichiganPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-MissouriPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-NebraskaPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-New JerseyPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-New YorkPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-TennesseePresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-TexasPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedOwnbey, 1997

Central America and Caribbean

BelizePresentHolm et al., 1979
CubaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Seifriz, 1943; Holm et al., 1979; Oviedo Prieto et al., 2012
DominicaPresentHolm et al., 1979
HaitiPresentNativeAnon, 2002
JamaicaPresentHolm et al., 1979
NicaraguaWidespreadNativeHolm et al., 1979; Alemán, 2001
Puerto RicoWidespreadNativeBarnés, 1946; Holm et al., 1979

South America

ArgentinaPresentHolm et al., 1979
BrazilPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlagoasPresentLorenzi, 1982
-AmazonasPresentLorenzi, 1982
-BahiaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-CearaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-GoiasPresentLorenzi, 1982
-MaranhaoPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Mato GrossoPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Minas GeraisPresentLorenzi, 1982
-ParaibaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-ParanaPresentLorenzi, 1982
-PernambucoPresentLorenzi, 1982
-PiauiPresentLorenzi, 1982
-Rio Grande do NortePresentLorenzi, 1982
-Sao PauloPresentLorenzi, 1982
-SergipePresentLorenzi, 1982
ChilePresentHolm et al., 1979
EcuadorIndigenous, localizedIntroducedTye, 1999
French GuianaPresentNativeDeFilipps et al., 2004
ParaguayPresentNativeSchvartzman and Santander, 1996
PeruPresentHolm et al., 1979
UruguayPresentHolm et al., 1979
VenezuelaPresentHolm et al., 1979


AustriaPresentIntroducedMowat, 1964
Czech RepublicAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive Pysek et al., 1989
FrancePresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Greuter et al., 1989
GermanyPresentIntroducedMowat, 1964
ItalyPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Greuter et al., 1989
PortugalPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
SpainPresentIntroducedde Lorenzo Caceres, unda
-Balearic IslandsPresentIntroducedde Lorenzo Caceres, unda
SwitzerlandPresentIntroducedMowat, 1964


AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedParsons and Cuthbertson, 1992
FijiPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedWaterhouse, 1997
New ZealandPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979
NiuePresentIntroducedSpace and Flynn, 2000
VanuatuPresentIntroducedWaterhouse, 1997

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page A. mexicana has been introduced accidentally (seed contaminant) or as an ornamental. Little is known about the history of its introduction and spread around the world. By 1814 it was the commonest weed of St Helena and was first recorded on Ascension in 1828 (Ashmole and Ashmole, 2000). In New Zealand, it was accidentally introduced with imported wheat in the 1890s (Healy, 1961). The plant was introduced to Hawaii as an ornamental and was first recorded in 1934 (Wester, 1992). Tye (1999) reported that the plant was still relatively uncommon and suspected that it may become problematic in the future. In the Czech Republic, it was first reported occurrence in the wild in 1965 but appears to have become extinct (Pysek et al., 2002).

Risk of Introduction

Top of page Seeds of A. mexicana and closely related species can be readily dispersed via contaminated seeds and soil. Being still considered as a desirable ornamental in parts of the world it is likely to be further introduced within regions where its distribution is still restricted. In South Africa the seeds of A. mexicana have been declared as 'noxious' as its seeds or bits of seeds may represent a hazard to human or animal health when consumed (NDA, 2001).


Top of page A. mexicana is adapted to a wide range of habitats, including humid and semi-arid areas and a wide range of soil types. It occurs as a weed of arable land, pastures and in waste places, roadsides and fence rows. In Cuba the plant was found to be typical of hygrophilous meadows (Seifriz, 1943). In East Africa it is reported in grasslands and savannas (Lyons, 2000). It is known from sea level to elevations of 2900 m in Tanzania (Holm et al., 1977).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page A. mexicana is a weed of most cropping systems, including large- and small-grain cereals, legumes, vegetables, fibre crops (cotton, sisal) and perennial crops (coffee, sugarcane). It appears that any crop has the potential to be infested with A. mexicana if grown within the habitat range of this weed.

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Biology and Ecology

Top of page Genetics

A. mexicana is a diploid species, 2n=28. A. ochroleuca is a tetraploid (2n=56). The occurrence of 5% of triploids (2n=42) in a population of A. ochroleuca suggest the possibility of a natural hybridization between these genetically close species (Chaturvedi et al., 1999).

Physiology and phenology

A. mexicana is a long-blooming plant. In the Temperate Zone flowering occurs in summer-autumn. In southern India (Western Ghats) the plant flowers and fruits through the year (Matthew, 1999).

Reproductive biology

The physiology of seed production and germination varies throughout the world. Mauritius reports the greatest seed production with an average of 60 to 90 capsules per plant with 300 to 400 seeds in each capsule (Holm et al., 1977). Seeds are dormant when shed and have an after-ripening period of several weeks or months. In eastern Africa and Australia, seeds germinate at any time of year if moisture is available but, in Mauritius, germination only occurs in the cooler months (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). In India also, it has been noted that germination occurs late in the season, with low night temperatures (Ambasht, 1992). Most seeds fall around the base of the parent plant where they form a carpet of seedlings. Dispersal occurs in surface water and in mud adhering to farm machinery and the feet of man and livestock. Seeds are readily eaten by a number of bird species in Puerto Rico as indicated by the presence of many seeds of the species in birds' stomachs (Barnés, 1946). In Ethiopia, most seeds do not normally germinate the year after shedding. Instead they enter the seed bank and seedlings establish, even in well-maintained field, probably for many years (Karlsson et al., 2003).

Environmental requirements

It tends to grow best in soils of low fertility and, in Australia, is peculiarly adapted to colonise derelict areas low in phosphorus (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). A. mexicana is better suited to grow at sites deficient in nitrogen whereas the closely related A. ochroleuca does better where phosphorus is limiting (Ramakrishnan and Gupta, 1972). However, neither species appear to have obvious restriction to particular agronomic or environmental situations (Karlsson et al., 2003). In southern India it occurs up to an altitude of 800 m a.s.l. (Matthew, 1999). When growing in undisturbed land, it can produce fresh weights of 6-9 t/ha but, in cultivated land, it is generally not an aggressive competitor (Holm et al., 1977).


In India grazing effects forest vegetation structure. It reduces grass cover and leads to the appearance of unpalatable species, including A. mexicana (Shanmughave, 1995).

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page A bacterial wilt, Xanthomonas papavericola [X. campestris pv. papavericola], periodically checks the growth of A. mexicana, in some areas (Holm et al., 1977) but there is a dearth of information on natural enemies of this weed.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

Top of page
VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Plants or parts of plantsSeed contaminant Yes
Soil, sand and gravel Yes Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
True seeds (inc. grain) seeds Yes

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products Negative
Biodiversity (generally) None
Crop production Negative
Environment (generally) None
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health Negative
Livestock production None
Native fauna None
Native flora None
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None


Top of page Economic impact

A. mexicana is a principal weed of beans and maize in Tanzania, cereals in Australia and India, cotton in Nicaragua, potatoes in India, tobacco in Argentina and Puerto Rico, and wheat in Pakistan (Holm et al., 1977). In Bangladesh, it grows in wheat, sugarcane, potato, pulses and tea fields (Islam et al., 2003). In Florida, USA, it is reported as a weed in tomato crops (Johnson, 1997) and Vaughan and Wiehe (1937) stated that it was frequent in cane fields in Mauritius. A. mexicana is one of the main weeds associated with common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) in Nicaragua (Alemán, 2001). In the late 19th century the plant was not be considered as a bad weed in Kansas, USA (Hitchcock and Clothier, 1898). A. mexicana has an inhibitory effect on germination and seedling growth of vegetables (Hazarika and Sannigrahi, 2001) and weed residues may affect Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) growth and development because of the inhibitory effects of allelochemicals present (Karikari et al. 2000).
In poultry, one ounce of seed causes symptoms (e.g. decreased egg production), and 2 ounces usually cause death (Everest et al., unda). Grazing animals generally avoid this weed but can be poisoned if it is consumed in hay or chaff. The value of wool is decreased when contaminated by the prickly fruits of A. mexicana (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Harvesting by hand of low-growing field crops can be a painful experience in the presence A. mexicana and hired labour may expect to be paid a premium in these conditions.

Impact: Biodiversity

Top of page To-date little is known about the impact of A. argemone on biodiversity. Islam et al. (2003) has ascertained that the species reduces plant diversity, and Kumar and Rohatgi (1999) postulated that it decreases biodiversity in India. In Tanzania the plant is commonly found in the Lake Manyara National Park (Lyons, 2000).

Social Impact

Top of page A. mexicana has had a major impact on human health in the Indian subcontinent. Edible vegetable oil either accidentally contaminated with A. mexicana or intentionally adulterated by unscrupulous traders has resulted in epidemic dropsy. Such an epidemic occurred in 1998 in Delhi (India) and epidemic dropsy has also been reported from Nepal (Jha et al., 2001; Sharma et al., 2002). Sharma et al. (1999) have provided an review of the clinical effects of adulterated oil and suggested preventive measures. An epidemic occurred in South Africa following the contamination of wheat flour (Sharma et al., 1999). In northern and central India, A. mexicana has been identified as an important allergen (Singh and Kumar, 2004). Subsistence farmers in the Ethiopian Highlands find this prickly plant difficult to manage in cereal fields.

Extracts of A. mexicana readily kill the snail Biomphalaria glabrata and thus have potential as a molluscide for the relatively cheap control of human schistosomiasis (Melendez and Capriles, 2002).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • 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
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Produces spines, thorns or burrs
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control


Top of page Extracts of the leaves, flowers and seeds of A. mexicana have been tested, mostly under laboratory conditions in India, against insect pests (Chitra et al., 1997), crop pathogens (Singh et al., 1993) and nematodes (Das and Sukul, 1988; Saxena and Tabassum, 2000; Shaukat et al., 2002). Aqueous extracts have been tested with success against tropical hen louse, Lipeurus lawrensis tropicalis (Kumar et al. 2002). Although control or suppression of these pests has been found, there is little evidence for the widespread practical exploitation of these findings. Von Weizsäckerl (1995) reported that it is used in parts of India to prepare antifeedant sprays in the same way as is done with leaves of Azadirachta indica.

Medicinal properties have been attributed to the sap and oil from the seed (Holm et al., 1977). In the Guianas the whole plant is used as an infusion against asthma. The root is taken in rum and cognac for stomach pain. Sap from the cut end of the stem is applied to cavities as a treatment for toothache. Children having difficulty with urination are given infusions of petals (DeFilipps et al., 2004). In India (Madhya Pradesh) it is reported to be a homeopathic drug (Oudhia et al., 1998). In West Africa it is used as a cosmetic, i.e. a washing milk (Rukangira, 2001).

In East Africa, the seeds are ground and put into beer or tea to increase their potency and cause drunkenness (Verdcourt and Trump, 1969).

In India, A. mexicana seeds are added to mustard oil in very small quantities, to increase its pungency. However, recently in New Delhi, over 60 deaths have been attributed to adulteration of mustard oil with larger quantities of A. mexicana, as a means of reducing costs (The Indian Society of Weed Science, 1998).

Uses List

Top of page

Human food and beverage

  • Beverage base


  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page A. albiflora has white flowers, 10-15 cm in diameter. A weed of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, USA (Brown, 1972).

A. corymbosa is a weed native to California, USA (Goeden and Ricker, 1985).

A. intermedia has white or pinkish flowers, 5-8 cm in diameter. Plant densely covered with short yellowish hairs. Arizona, USA (Parker, 1972).

A. ochroleuca ssp. ochroleuca is a weed of Australia. It has a basal rosette of leaves which are light green and mottled white (Auld and Medd, 1987).

A. ochroleuca (A. mexicana forma ochroleuca) has creamy white to yellow petals, an ellipsoid capsule narrowed at both ends, seeds approximately 1.5 mm in diameter. Ownbey (1997) differentiates it from A. mexicana on the basis of differences in flower bud shape and petal colour. A. ochroleuca is recorded as a weed from Australia (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992), Ethiopia (Karlsson et al., 2003), India (Ramakrishnan and Gupta, 1972) and South Africa (Milton and Dean, 1998). Chaturvedi et al. (1999) have suggested that it can naturally hybridize with A. mexicana. In Zimbabwe, these two species are viewed as colour forms of one species A. mexicana (Hyde and Wursten, 2002).

A. polyanthemos has white or lavender flowers and prickles on the lower surface of the leaves. It is a weed of pastures in the Great Plains of the USA (Davis, 1993).

A. squarrosa is a perennial with prickles on both sides of the leaves. It is a weed of pastures and rangeland in the Great Plains of the USA (Davis, 1993).

A. subfusiformis is closely related to A. ochroleuca and is found in Australia (New South Wales and South Australia) (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). It has cream to pale yellow petals, capsule slenderly spindle-shaped and seed approximately 2 mm in diameter. A subspecies, A. subfusiformis ssp. subfusiformis, with deep yellow flowers also occurs as a weed in Australia (Auld and Medd, 1987).

Other Argemone species occurring in California, USA include A. minuta (Goeden and Ricker, 1985) and A. platyceras (Robbins et al., 1951).

Hosking et al. (2000) have pointed out that A. mexicana, A. ochroleuca, and A. subfusiformis have been confused in the past and at present, and are often incorrectly identified.

Prevention and Control

Top of page Chemical control

Plants of A. mexicana should be destroyed or removed before they produce seeds. Seedlings are readily controlled by light tillage. Long cultivated fallow or vigorous perennial pastures will control large infestations (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Herbicides which control A. mexicana include 2,4-D, 2,4-DB, dicamba, diuron, fluroxypyr, hexazinone, isoproturon, karbutilate, MCPA, metribuzin, oxadiazon, picloram and terbutryn.

Biological control

A biological control programme of A. mexicana and of the closely related A. ochroleuca has been initiated in Australia. This native of Mexico is naturalized in most warm countries of the world in sub-humid as well as semiarid regions. This project sought natural enemies in Mexico and identified several predatory insects including an extremely damaging species of root-breeding and leaf-feeding weevil (CSIRO, 1999; Julien, 2002).


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