Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Asclepias curassavica
(bloodflower)

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Datasheet

Asclepias curassavica (bloodflower)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Asclepias curassavica
  • Preferred Common Name
  • bloodflower
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • The milkweed A. curassica is an erect sub-shrub that is reported to be weedy or invasive across many tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Australia and Asia, as well as in China, South East Asia and the Pacific. The invasiv...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Flowers of Asclepias curassavica
TitleFlowers
CaptionFlowers of Asclepias curassavica
Copyright©Megan Ward
Flowers of Asclepias curassavica
FlowersFlowers of Asclepias curassavica©Megan Ward
Whole plant morphology of Asclepias curassavica
TitleWhole plant
CaptionWhole plant morphology of Asclepias curassavica
Copyright©Megan Ward
Whole plant morphology of Asclepias curassavica
Whole plantWhole plant morphology of Asclepias curassavica©Megan Ward
Seed pod of Asclepias curassavica
TitleSeed pod
CaptionSeed pod of Asclepias curassavica
Copyright©Megan Ward
Seed pod of Asclepias curassavica
Seed podSeed pod of Asclepias curassavica©Megan Ward

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Asclepias curassavica Linnaeus, 1753

Preferred Common Name

  • bloodflower

Other Scientific Names

  • Asclepias aurantiaca Salisb.
  • Asclepias bicolor Moench
  • Asclepias cubensis Wenderoth
  • Asclepias curassavica Lour.
  • Asclepias curassavica [Illegitimate] Griseb.
  • Asclepias curassavica f. flaviflora Tawada
  • Asclepias curassavica var. concolor Krug & Urb.
  • Asclepias margaritacea Hoffmannsegg ex Schult. in Roem. & Schult.
  • Asclepias nivea var. curassavica Kuntze, 1891

International Common Names

  • English: bastard ipecac; bastard ipecacuana; bloodflower; bloodflower milkweed; butterfly weed; false ipecac; Mexican butterfly weed; milkweed; red butterfly weed; red cotton bush; red head cottonbush; red milkweed; redhead cottonbush; scarlet milkweed; silkweed; silky butterfly weed; swallowwort; tropical milkweed; West Indian ipecac; wild ipecacuanha
  • Spanish: algodoncillo; bandera espanola; bencenuco; calerona; corcalito; flor anaranjada; flor de la reina; flor de sangre; flor de sapo; flor de seda; flro de muerte; hierba de la vibora; lechosilla; mal cascada; marianilla; mata caballo; nino muerto; oficial de sala; platanillo; platanillo; quita soliman; sangria; senorita; viborana; vivorana; yerba de la calentura; yuquillo
  • French: asclepias de Curacao; herbe à gendarme; herbe á sang; ipéca sauvage; ipéca sauvage
  • Chinese: ma li jin
  • Portuguese: oficial-de-sala

Local Common Names

  • Australia: bastard ipecacuana; cottonbush; Madagascar cottonbush; milky cottonbush; red-cotton; redhead; wallflower cottonbush; West Indian ipecacuana; wild ipecac; wild oleander
  • Belize: polly redhead
  • Brazil: algodao-de-seda; algodãozinho-do-campo; camará-bravo; capitao-de-sala; capitão-de-sala; cega-olho; erva-de-paina; erva-de-rato; erva-de-rato(falso); margaridinha; oficial-de-sala; paina-de-sapo; paininha; paira-de-sapo
  • Cook Islands: tirika; tirika
  • El Salvador: flor de agua
  • Fiji: false ipiciachuana; vu di lolia; vu ni lolia; wathiwathi
  • French Polynesia: tirita
  • Germany: Curacao-seidenpflanze; Indianer-seidenpflanze; Indianer-Seidenpflanze
  • Guam: asuncoin (Chamorro)
  • India: kakatundi; madhar (Hindi)
  • Indonesia: kapas cinde
  • Italy: ipecauana delle Antille; pianta della seta a fiori rossi
  • Laos: mak kha kay
  • Marshall Islands: ialo; ialu; kabbok; kappok; lalo; yelo
  • Micronesia, Federated states of: kimeme (Pohnpeian); margarita; pugarigarita; wanuailiyos (Chuukese)
  • Nauru: dupaimdupaim; dupaimdupwaim
  • Nepal: khursani kose phool
  • Netherlands: Frederiksbloem
  • Samoa: pepe toa
  • South Africa: Frederiksblom
  • Sweden: röd sidenört
  • Thailand: fai duean haa; mai cheen; thian daeng
  • Tonga: fisi puna; lou pepe; tulanga pepe; tuula pepe; vavae kona
  • USA/Hawaii: lauhele; laulele; nu‘umela; pua anuhe
  • Venezuela: yuquillo

EPPO code

  • ASCCU (Asclepias curassavica)

Summary of Invasiveness

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The milkweed A. curassica is an erect sub-shrub that is reported to be weedy or invasive across many tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Australia and Asia, as well as in China, South East Asia and the Pacific. The invasiveness of this species is reflected by the notably widespread scale of naturalization, together with the ease of spread and establishment of A. curassavica across a range of habitat types. Impacts of this species include the invasion of both native ecosystems and agricultural systems (e.g. Holm et al., 1997), as well as toxicity to vertebrates.

Although widely naturalized, A. curassavica is rarely included on legislative lists of noxious or regulated pests. In Australia, A. curassavica is considered to be one of the worst 200 weeds in southeast Queensland (Batianoff and Butler, 2002), but is not listed as a declared pest under State legislation. A. curassavica is listed as a noxious weed in Western Samoa, and is listed as a restricted species in Hawaii.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Gentianales
  •                         Family: Asclepiadaceae
  •                             Genus: Asclepias
  •                                 Species: Asclepias curassavica

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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A. curassavica previously belonged to the (former) Asclepiadaceae, before classification of the Apocynaceae was revised to subsume the Asclepiadaceae as the sub-family Asclepiadoideae (Endress and Bruyns, 2000).

The genus name Asclepias is derived from Asklepios, the Greek god of healing, and reflects the long-regarded medicinal qualities of the plants in this genus. The species name curassavica is derived from Curaçao, the name of an island in the southern Caribbean Sea and the location of the type specimen of A. curassavica.

Translations of the common names of A. curassavica include grass policeman (herbe à gendarme, French), wild ipecac (ipéca sauvage, French), blood flower (flor de sangre, Spanish) and silk plant (seidenpflanze, German).

As a result of its popularity as an ornamental plant, a number of different cultivars with different flower colours and growth habits have been developed.

Description

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Adapted from Globinmed (2013):

A. curassavica is a perennial herb of the Asclepiadaceae family. It is an erect, glabrous, perennial sub-shrub that grows approximately 1 m high, and sometimes up to 1.5 m. Like most other milkweeds, A. curassavica plants produce a dense, white latex from any plant part when damaged. The stem is smooth, round, dull green or suffused with dull red.

The leaves are simple, opposite, shortly petioled, lanceolate to narrow-elliptic in shape, acuminate and measure 6 to 15 cm long and 6 to 25 cm wide (Harden and Williams, 2013; PIER, 2013). The base is narrowed.

The flowers of A. curassavica have the unique floral morphology that is typical of milkweeds. The inflorescence is in the form of an umbel, of up to 12 flowers, on the terminal or axillary peduncle. Umbels are held erectly, and flowering is typically throughout the year with the exception of winter months (Ward, 2012). The flowers are perfect, radially symmetrical or irregularly shaped, bright red or orange with yellow centres, and measure approximately 12.5 mm. There are five sepals, deeply divided, reflexed and green. There are five petals which are linear with base united into a fused corolla. The corolla lobes are red, reflexed, oblong and approximately 8 mm long. The corona scale is orange, 5-lobed and measures 3.4 to 4.0 mm long. The corona is hood-shaped with inwardly curved horns. There are five stamens. Anthers have two pollen sacs. The style filaments are united with pistils which have two carpels.

The fruit is a pair of dry dehiscent, spindle-shaped follicles, measuring 5 to 15 cm long. Seed pods are light green and elongated, with approximately 70 to 80 seeds (Ward et al., 2012), and split lengthways on one side upon maturity.

Seeds are ovate and flattened, brown, 6 to 7 mm long, and have a narrow wing completely encircling the margin. Each seed is topped with a coma comprised of silky white hairs, 2 to 3 cm long, that assist in dispersal by wind.

Plant Type

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Annual
Broadleaved
Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated

Distribution

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A. currasavica is naturalized in many tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Australia and Asia, and less frequently in Africa. The precise origin of A. curassavica is unknown, but is thought to be South America, Central America or the Antilles (Woodson, 1954).

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.

Last updated: 25 Feb 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

MadagascarPresentIntroduced
MozambiquePresentIntroducedInvasiveRecords from Tete and Maputo
SenegalPresent
South AfricaPresentIntroducedInvasiveNaturalised in Eastern Cape, Guateng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape
SudanPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedInvasiveRecords from Harare and Mazvikadei

Asia

CambodiaPresentInvasive
ChinaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-AnhuiPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-FujianPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-GuangdongPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-GuangxiPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-GuizhouPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-HainanPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-HebeiPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-HunanPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-JiangsuPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-JiangxiPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-QinghaiPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-SichuanPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-TibetPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-YunnanPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-ZhejiangPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
Hong KongPresentIntroducedCultivated
IndiaPresentIntroducedInvasiveNaturalized in many parts of India; present in Himalayan region
-Andhra PradeshPresent
-OdishaPresent
-Uttar PradeshPresentIntroducedInvasive
IranPresentIntroducedInvasive
IraqPresent
IsraelPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedCultivated in gardens
JapanPresentIntroducedInvasive
MalaysiaPresentIntroducedInvasive
NepalPresentIntroduced
PakistanPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedCommonly cultivated as a garden plant
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedOriginal citation: Merrill (1923)
SingaporePresentIntroducedInvasive
ThailandPresentIntroducedInvasive

Europe

BulgariaPresent
HungaryPresentIntroducedInvasive
ItalyPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced
NetherlandsPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced
SpainPresent

North America

Antigua and BarbudaPresentNative
BahamasPresent
BarbadosPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveFirst reported: early 1700s
BelizePresent
BermudaPresent
Cayman IslandsPresentNative
Costa RicaPresent, WidespreadInvasivePuntaren, Cartago
CubaPresentNative
DominicaPresentNative
Dominican RepublicPresentNative
El SalvadorPresent
GuadeloupePresentNative
GuatemalaPresentAlta Verapaz, Chimaltenango, Chiquimula, Escuintla, Guatemala, Huehuetenango, Izabal, Jalapa, Petén, Quezaltenango, Retalhuleu, Sacatepéquez, San Marcos, Santa Rosa and Suchitepéquez
HaitiPresentNative
HondurasPresentEl Progreso
JamaicaPresentNative
MartiniquePresentNative
MexicoPresentIntroducedInvasiveBaja Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Colima, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Veracruz, Yucatan, Tamaulipas
MontserratPresentNative
Netherlands AntillesPresentNativeSaba
NicaraguaPresentInvasive
PanamaPresent
Puerto RicoPresentPuerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra
Trinidad and TobagoPresentInvasive
United StatesPresent
-CaliforniaPresentIntroducedInvasiveCultivated and naturalised
-FloridaPresentIntroduced
-HawaiiPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveNaturalised on the islands of Hawai‘i, Kaho‘olawe, Kaua‘i, Läna‘i, Maui, Moloka‘i, Ni‘ihau and O‘ahu
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-TennesseePresentIntroducedInvasive
-TexasPresentIntroducedInvasive

Oceania

American SamoaPresentIntroducedInvasiveTutuila Island
AustraliaPresent
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedInvasive
-QueenslandPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveSouth-east Queensland
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedInvasive
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedInvasive
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasive
Federated States of MicronesiaPresentIntroducedPohnpei Island
FijiPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveFrom near sea level to approximately 900 m. Distribution includes Lakemba Island, Taveuni Island, Totoya Island, Vanua Levu Island, Viti Levu Island
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedInvasiveGambier Islands (Mangareva Island); Marquesas Islands (Eiao Island, Fatu Hiva Island, Hiva Oa Island, Mohotani Island, Nuku Hiva Island, Tahuata Island, Ua Huka Island, Ua Pou Island); Society Islands (Huahine Island, Moorea Island, Raiatea Island and Tahiti Island); Austral Islands (Raivavae Island, Rapa Island, Rurutu Island)
GuamPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasive
KiribatiPresentIntroducedTabuaeran Atoll
Marshall IslandsPresentIntroducedRalik Chain (Ailinglaplap Atoll, Jaluit Atoll and Lae Atoll); Ratak Chain (Ailuk Atoll, Arno Atoll, Majuro Atoll, Utirik Atoll)
NauruPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedCultivated and uncommon; First reported: prior to 1940s
New CaledoniaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveFirst reported: 1860s
Northern Mariana IslandsPresentIntroducedAguijan Island, Rota Island, Saipan Island, Tinian Island
PalauPresentIntroducedKoror Island, Peleliu Island
Papua New GuineaAbsent, Intercepted onlyBougainville Island
SamoaPresentIntroduced
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasive
TongaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasive‘Eua Island, Tonga Islands, Tongatapu Island, Vava‘u Island
TuvaluPresentIntroducedInvasive
VanuatuPresentIntroducedInvasive
Wallis and FutunaPresentIntroducedInvasive

South America

ArgentinaPresentInvasive
BoliviaPresent, WidespreadNativeChuquisaca, Pando, Santa Cruz, Beni, Cochabamba, La Paz
BrazilPresentInvasive
-ParanaPresentOriginal citation: Instituto Botanica Darwinion de (2008)
-Rio Grande do SulPresentOriginal citation: Instituto Botanica Darwinion de (2008)
-Santa CatarinaPresentOriginal citation: Instituto Botanica Darwinion de (2008)
ChilePresentOriginal citation: Instituto Botanica Darwinion de (2008)
-Easter IslandPresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveSouth and north coasts of the island
ColombiaPresentNativeAbejorral, AmagÁ, Amalfi, Andes, Barbosa, Bello, Bolivar, CÁceres, Carepa, Chigorodó, CocornÁ, Dabeiba, Envigado, Fredonia, Frontino, Girardota, Maceo, Medellín, Montebello, MutatÁ, Nariño, Salgar, San Carlos, San Luis, Santa Fé de Antioquia, Segovia, TÁmesis, TarazÁ, Tarso, Titibirí, Turbo, Urrao, Valdivia, Venecia, Yolombó
EcuadorPresentGalápagos, Coastal, Andean, Amazonian regions; Moist uplands of the Galápagos Islands; Galápagos distribution includes the islands of Floreana, Isabela, San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz and Santiago
French GuianaPresentNative
GuyanaPresent, WidespreadNativeInvasive
ParaguayPresentCentral, Cordillera, Guaira, Paraguarí; Original citation: Instituto Botanica Darwinion de (2008)
PeruPresentNativeAmazonas, Ancash, Arequipa, Cuzco, Huánuco, Junín, La Libertad, Lambayeque, Lima, Loreto, Pasco, San Martín, Tumbes, Ucayali
SurinamePresentNative
VenezuelaPresentNative

History of Introduction and Spread

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As a result of the long-term and widespread naturalization of A. curassavica, little information is known regarding the history of its introduction and spread. It is presumed that A. curassavica was predominantly introduced to new regions for horticultural purposes; however, introductions may also have been accidental.

In Barbados, A. curassavica was introduced in the early part of the eighteenth century and had become a common weed by 1750 (Blakley and Dingle, 1978). It was introduced to New Caledonia in the 1860s and became widespread though not abundant (MacKee, 1994).

In Australia, A. curassavica was introduced as an ornamental (Batianoff and Butler, 2002). The earliest report of this species in Australia is from 1869 (Bentham and Mueller, 1869), who stated that A. curassavica was 'common in several parts of Queensland' at this time.

A. curassavica was introduced to Nauru before World War II (Thaman et al., 1994).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Australia Pre 1869 Horticulture (pathway cause) Yes Bentham and Mueller (1869) Reported that A. curassavica was 'common in several parts of Queensland’ at this time.
Barbados Early 1700s Yes Blakley and Dingle (1978) Reported that A. curassavica had become a common weed by 1750.
Nauru Pre 1940 Yes Thaman et al. (1994)
New Caledonia 1860s Yes MacKee (1994)

Risk of Introduction

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A. curassavica is well-known as a garden plant and is particularly popular for use as a host plant of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). As such, seeds of this species are readily available for purchase, thereby posing a risk of introduction to new or restricted areas.

Habitat

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A. curassavica has been reported across a range of habitat types. In Australia, habitat preferences of A. curassavica include riparian and wetland vegetation, pastures (Ward, 2012) and rainforest clearings (Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, 2010). In Barbados, A. curassavica is reported to invade steep valleys (Blakley and Dingle, 1978). In Peru, A. curassavica is reported to invade grasslands, riversides and seasonally inundated areas (USDA-ARS, 2011). In Zimbabwe and Mozambique, A. curassavica is reported to invade riparian habitats (Hyde et al., 2013a,b).

A. curassavica is also reported to invade disturbed habitats and roadsides in Australia (Harden and Williams, 2013), Fiji (Smith, 1988), Mozambique (Hyde et al., 2013a), North America (Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, 2012), Papua New Guinea (Henty and Pritchard, 1975), Peru (USDA-ARS, 2011), Tonga (Yuncker, 1959) and Zimbabwe (Hyde et al., 2013a).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedDisturbed areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedRail / roadsides Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ManagedUrban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanks Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Natural / Semi-naturalWetlands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)

Hosts/Species Affected

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A. curassavica infestations have been reported in numerous crops species, but the impacts of this species on the growth or production of crops have not been documented. Crops affected by A. curassavica infestations include banana, coffee, cotton, mango and sorghum in Mexico; edible beans, cassava and sweet potato in Costa Rica; coconut in Cambodia; soybeans in Brazil; sugar cane in Argentina and Costa Rica, and sorghum and tobacco in Nicaragua (Holm et al., 1997). A. curassavica infestations are also reported in coconut plantations in Papua New Guinea (Peekel, 1984) and Fiji (Smith, 1988).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContextReferences
Cocos nucifera (coconut)ArecaceaeMain

Biology and Ecology

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Reproductive Biology

A. curassavica plants are typically annual, although some individuals may persist over several seasons and produce multiple stems from the base of the plant (Ward, 2012).

Like all other milkweeds, A. curassavica is dependent on pollinators for reproductive output (Ward et al., 2012), although individuals of A. curassavica from a Costa Rican population were found to be self-compatible (Wyatt and Broyles, 1997). Populations of A. curassavica were also found to be self-compatible in Australia, and selfing did not have fitness consequences for progeny (Ward et al., 2012). The potential for hybridization between A. curassavica and other weedy milkweeds in Australia was investigated by Ward et al. (2012), who found that A. curassavica could not readily hybridize with Gomphocarpus fruticosus or G. physocarpus.

Flowers of A. curassavica produce copious amounts of rich nectar to attract pollinators (Ward and Johnson, 2013). Pollination by butterflies has been documented in populations of A. curassavica in Costa Rica (Wyatt, 1980; Bierzychudek, 1981) and Brazil (Fuhro et al., 2010). In Australia, pollinators of A. curassavica include butterflies and wasps (Ward and Johnson, 2013).

Environmental Requirements

A. curassavica grows best in full sun and in well-drained, acid or neutral and loam or sand soil (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2013; Royal Horticultural Society, 2013). Environmental requirements of A. curassavica have not been quantified, although it has been noted that it appears to be tolerant of a wide range of environmental and climatic characteristics.

Climate

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

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aphis nerii Herbivore Plants|Whole plant not specific ?
Danaus gilippus Herbivore Plants|Whole plant not specific ?
Danaus plexippus Herbivore Plants|Whole plant not specific ?
Oncopeltus cingulifer Herbivore Plants|Seeds not specific ?
Oncopeltus fasciatus Herbivore Plants|Seeds not specific ?

Notes on Natural Enemies

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A. curassavica, together with other milkweed species, is well known as the larval host plant of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), as well as other related butterflies such as the lesser wanderer (D. petilia) and queen butterfly (D. gilippusis). Other natural enemies of A. curassavica include lygaeid bugs (Oncopeltus cingulifer, O. fasciatus, O. unifasciatellus) that feed on milkweed seeds and, to a lesser degree, vegetative material. Yellow aphids (Aphis nerii) are also commonly observed on A. curassavica. Natural pests appear to be ineffective as biocontrol agents for A. curassavica (M Ward, unpublished data).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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A. curassavica is dependent on seeds for dispersal, and seeds are easily germinated. Natural dispersal at the local scale is by wind, and seeds are each topped with a fluffy white coma to assist in wind dispersal.

Due to the long-term and widespread naturalization of A. curassavica, little information regarding anthropogenic-mediated dispersal is available. Considering the popularity of A. curassavica as an ornamental plant, it is likely that national and international movement and dispersal is due to predominantly intentional introductions for horticultural purposes and use as a garden plant. However, it is also possible that accidental introductions have occurred, and GRIN (USDA-ARS, 2013) lists A. curassavica as a potential seed contaminant.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
HorticultureUnknown Yes Batianoff and Butler (2002)
People foragingPeople sharing Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Negative

Economic Impact

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Economic impacts of A. curassavica have not been quantified. However, this species is documented to invade agricultural systems, including pastures (Ward, 2012), crops and plantations (Holm et al., 1997), and economic impacts would be expected as a result of decreased agricultural productivity and the cost of weed control. Furthermore, given the toxicity of A. curassavica, economic impacts are also likely to include illness and death of livestock.

Economic Value

Economic value of A. curassavica has not been quantified, and is not expected to be substantial. Economic benefits include its use as an ornamental plant and its use as a host plant to raise milkweed butterflies (Danaus spp.) for scientific research purposes.

Environmental Impact

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Although A. curassavica is reported to invade native ecosystems (e.g. Ward, 2012), the environmental impacts of this species have not been quantified. Milkweeds are poisonous or distasteful to birds and mammals (Spurgeon, 2013)

Environmental Services

A. curassavica is a host plant for several butterfly species (Danaus spp.). It is important to note, however, that other native milkweed species also fulfill this environmental service such that A. curassavica is not considered critical to the conservation of milkweed butterflies.

Social Impact

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The latex of A. curassavica is toxic and can cause serious reactions if ingested or touched. Globinmed (2013) gives the signs of toxicity as ‘vertigo, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, pallor, chills and arrhythmia’. The latex is painful if it comes in contact with eyes and can cause hazy vision. It can also produce dermatitis in susceptible individuals (Globinmed, 2013).

The leaves of A. curassavica may be dangerous to pets if eaten due to the high levels of glycosides in the plant (Spurgeon, 2013).

Social Benefit

A. curassavica is a popular ornamental, particularly with butterfly gardens and enthusiasts as it attracts the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). The plant also has a range of medicinal uses (see Uses).

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
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
Impact outcomes
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Poisoning
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

Top of page

A. curassavica has been used as a traditional medicine for many health problems (Holm et al., 1997). It is used as a contraceptive and snakebite remedy by Native Americans, and is used in the tropics as an emetic, laxative, febrifuge, expectorant and to remove warts, and is used elsewhere to treat skin parasites, constipation, venereal disease, kidney stones and asthma (Palm Beach State College, 2012). A syrup made from the juice of A. curassavica is a powerful vermifuge and its roots have been used to treat gonorrhoea. In Jamaica it has been used to treat dysentery and in Indonesia A. curassavica has been used in the treatment of pneumonia, mastitis, pyoderma and inflammation of the spleen (Globinmed, 2013). Globinmed (2013) also reports that ‘various parts of A. curassavica have been used in the treatment of fungal infection, leucorrhoea, warts, cancer, caries [and] fever’.

Economic Value

The economic value of A. curassavica has not been quantified, and is not expected to be substantial. Economic benefits include its use as an ornamental plant and its use as a host plant to raise milkweed butterflies (Danaus spp.) for scientific research purposes.

Environmental Services

A. curassavica is a host plant for several butterfly species (Danaus spp.). It is important to note, however, that other native milkweed species also fulfill this environmental service such that A. curassavica is not considered critical to the conservation of milkweed butterflies.

Uses List

Top of page

Environmental

  • Host of pest

General

  • Laboratory use
  • Ornamental

Materials

  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Potted plant

Detection and Inspection

Top of page

Although mature A. curassavica plants are readily identified (see Description), no early detection, inspection or diagnosis methods for this species are documented. Seeds of A. curassavica do not have distinctive features, meaning that this species may be difficult to identify at inspection points. For a description of the seeds, see Description.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page

A. curassavica is easily identified by the unique floral morphology of milkweeds and the white latex that is produced when plant parts are damaged. It is distinguished from other milkweeds by the colouration of its floral parts; specifically, a red corolla and yellow corona.

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.

Limited information regarding the prevention, management and control of A. curassavica is available. Hand-pulling and bagging of plant material is generally the recommended method for control. Common herbicides such as glyphosate are reported to have limited effectiveness, although spraying with glyphosphate may be a viable option on small areas invaded by A. curassavica (PIER, 2013). Natural pests, such as monarch butterfly larvae, aphids and lygaeid bugs, appear to be ineffective as biocontrol agents for A. curassavica (M Ward, unpublished data).

References

Top of page

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01/08/13 Original text by:

Megan Ward, The University of Queensland, Australia

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