Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Asphodelus tenuifolius



Asphodelus tenuifolius (onionweed)


  • Last modified
  • 13 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Asphodelus tenuifolius
  • Preferred Common Name
  • onionweed
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
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Asphodelus tenuifolius- 1, habit; 2, flower; 3, ovary, cross section; 4, fruit; 5, seed two views (from Holm et. al., 1997).
TitleLine artwork of A. tenuifolius
CaptionAsphodelus tenuifolius- 1, habit; 2, flower; 3, ovary, cross section; 4, fruit; 5, seed two views (from Holm et. al., 1997).
CopyrightR.K. Malik
Asphodelus tenuifolius- 1, habit; 2, flower; 3, ovary, cross section; 4, fruit; 5, seed two views (from Holm et. al., 1997).
Line artwork of A. tenuifoliusAsphodelus tenuifolius- 1, habit; 2, flower; 3, ovary, cross section; 4, fruit; 5, seed two views (from Holm et. al., 1997).R.K. Malik
Asphodelus tenuifolius.
TitleA. tenuifolius
CaptionAsphodelus tenuifolius.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
Asphodelus tenuifolius.
A. tenuifoliusAsphodelus tenuifolius.R.K. Malik
Field of Asphodelus tenuifolius.
TitleA. tenuifolius
CaptionField of Asphodelus tenuifolius.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
Field of Asphodelus tenuifolius.
A. tenuifoliusField of Asphodelus tenuifolius.R.K. Malik
Asphodelus tenuifolius.
TitleA. tenuifolius
CaptionAsphodelus tenuifolius.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
Asphodelus tenuifolius.
A. tenuifoliusAsphodelus tenuifolius.R.K. Malik
Flowering Asphodelus tenuifolius.
TitleFlowering plants
CaptionFlowering Asphodelus tenuifolius.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
Flowering Asphodelus tenuifolius.
Flowering plantsFlowering Asphodelus tenuifolius.R.K. Malik
Flowering Asphodelus tenuifolius.
TitleFlowering plants
CaptionFlowering Asphodelus tenuifolius.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
Flowering Asphodelus tenuifolius.
Flowering plantsFlowering Asphodelus tenuifolius.R.K. Malik
Asphodelus tenuifolius Cav.
TitleLine artwork of A. tenuifolius
CaptionAsphodelus tenuifolius Cav.
CopyrightR.K. Malik
Asphodelus tenuifolius Cav.
Line artwork of A. tenuifoliusAsphodelus tenuifolius Cav.R.K. Malik


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Asphodelus tenuifolius Cav.

Preferred Common Name

  • onionweed

Other Scientific Names

  • Asphodelus fistulosus L. (1753)

International Common Names

  • English: asphodelus (USA); hollow-stemmed asphodel; onion weed; wild onion
  • Spanish: caramuixa; gamonita
  • French: asphodèle creux

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Affodill, Röhriger
  • India: bhukat; bokat; pyazi
  • Pakistan: pyazi
  • Saudi Arabia: barok; basal-esh sheitan

EPPO code

  • ASHFI (Asphodelus fistulosus)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Liliales
  •                         Family: Liliaceae
  •                             Genus: Asphodelus
  •                                 Species: Asphodelus tenuifolius

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Asphodelus tenuifolius is very closely related to A. fistulosus, and the existing literature gives no clear indication for their taxonomic treatment. A number of European floras unite them as the same species using evidence of intermediate forms in the Eastern Mediterranean to support this decision. Asian and African floras, however, distinguish between the two species. Other references distinguish them at varietal rank, accepting A. fistulosus var. tenuifolius. The relationship between the two species remains poorly understood, and this data sheet will treat them as one. in line with Holm et al. (1997).

Chromosome number (2n) = 28 or 56 (Richardson and Smythies 1980).

Many authorities include the genus Asphodelus in the family Liliaceae.


Top of page A. tenuifolius is an erect annual, monocotyledonous herb; root yellowish in young plants and dark brown at maturity, superficially has the appearance of the taproot system of dicotyledons, in fact the ridged and furrowed organ is a hard and compacted bundle of fibrous roots, which may sometimes twist to give a rope-like appearance; leaves numerous, all basal, hollow, slender, gradually acuminate to a point, 10 to 40 cm long, the base sheathing, smooth to minutely hairy; seeming to rise as a 'bunch' from the soil, scapes several, simple, sparse dichotomous branching in upper region, stout, 3 mm in diameter, up to 60 cm long; flowers campanulate, white with pink or purple stripe, in lax racemes; bracteate, pedicellate, short pedicel may be jointed; petals 1.5 cm long in six perianth segments; stamens six; simple, superior, 3-carpelled, 3-loculed ovary; flowering progressing upward in the inflorescence over a period of weeks, normally flowers do not open until late afternoon and unless conditions are dull and cool will close and wither before the next day; fruit, a 3-valved globular capsule, dehiscing at partitions into the cavity, transversely wrinkled, about 3 mm long; seeds 3-angled, blackish, finely pebbled texture, deep irregular dents on face and back.


Top of page A. tenuifolius is native to the Mediterranean region, Asia and the Mascarene Islands. It is generally present from the Canary Islands, across the Mediterranean to the Middle East and Afghanistan. Further south it occurs from Sudan across the Arabian peninsula to India and Malaysia. The species is also present in Australia and parts of Central America. It is found to an altitude of 2200 m in the mountains of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan (Holm et al., 1997).

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


AfghanistanPresentHolm et al., 1991
BangladeshPresentHolm et al., 1991
IndiaRestricted distributionSingh et al., 1995; Holm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-BiharWidespreadJoshi, 1974
-DelhiWidespreadJoshi, 1974
-GujaratWidespreadAnon, 1985
-HaryanaWidespreadMalik & Singh, 1994
-Indian PunjabWidespreadAdlakha et al., 1971; Sekhon et al., 1993
-Jammu and KashmirWidespreadBamber, 1916; Thakur, 1954
-Madhya PradeshPresentTomar and Namdeo, 1991; Yadav et al., 1995
-RajasthanWidespreadSen and Kasera, 1988
-Uttar PradeshPresentSanjai et al., 2009
-West BengalWidespreadAnon, 1985
IranPresentHolm et al., 1991
IraqPresentHolm et al., 1991
IsraelPresentHolm et al., 1991
MalaysiaPresentHolm et al., 1991
NepalPresentHolm et al., 1991
OmanPresentChaudhary et al., 1981; Holm et al., 1997
PakistanPresentAhmad et al., 1968; Saeed et al., 1979; Holm et al., 1991
Saudi ArabiaWidespreadChaudhary et al., 1981
TurkeyPresentRichardson and Smythies, 1980
YemenPresentChaudhary et al., 1981; Holm et al., 1997


AlgeriaPresentReed, 1977
EgyptPresentHolm et al., 1991
MauritiusWidespreadBorg, 1927
MoroccoPresentReed, 1977
SudanPresentHolm et al., 1991

North America

MexicoPresentHolm et al., 1997
USAPresentHolm et al., 1997

South America

BoliviaPresentHolm et al., 1997
PeruPresentHolm et al., 1997


FrancePresentRichardson and Smythies, 1980
GreecePresentRichardson and Smythies, 1980
ItalyPresentRichardson and Smythies, 1980; Holm et al., 1991
PortugalPresentRichardson and Smythies, 1980
-AzoresPresentRichardson and Smythies, 1980
SpainRestricted distributionRichardson and Smythies, 1980; EPPO, 2014
-Balearic IslandsPresentRichardson and Smythies, 1980
Yugoslavia (former)PresentRichardson and Smythies, 1980


AustraliaRestricted distributionHolm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-New South WalesPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-QueenslandPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-South AustraliaPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-TasmaniaPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-VictoriaPresentLazarides et al., 1997
-Western AustraliaPresentLazarides et al., 1997
New ZealandRestricted distributionHolm et al., 1991; EPPO, 2014


Top of page A. tenuifoliusis a sub-tropical species which prefers places with a relatively dry climate, low rainfall, rainfed agriculture and light soils. It is adversely affected by frequent irrigations and intensive agriculture, especially rice-wheat cropping systems. In a region of heavy infestation in India a series of experiments revealed that the weed is most competitive where the soil has a pH of 7, a water-holding capacity of 40%, a N level of 0.05% and an organic matter content of 0.7 to 1.5% (Tripathi, 1968a).

Habitat List

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Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page A. tenuifolius is a weed of 15 crops (Holm et al., 1997). It is a serious weed of wheat in India and Pakistan and a principal weed of chickpeas, lentils, linseed, peas, potatoes, tobacco and many other winter season crops in India.

Biology and Ecology

Top of page A. tenuifolius is an annual species which reproduces solely by seed. In South Asia, where the species is most commonly a serious weed, maximum germination and emergence occurs in September and October. Sant et al. (1979) showed that maximum growth, measured as increase in above-ground biomass, occurred 60 to 100 days after seed sowing. Once established, the quantity of weed seed in a field often increases from year to year as the species generally completes its life cycle and sheds seed before crop harvest. In India, seed output ranged from 270 to 2300 per plant in five wheat fields (Tripathi, 1968a).

In germination trials, Tripathi (1968a) collected fresh seed and stored it in bottles prior to conducting germination trials. Fresh and 6-month-old seed did not germinate, suggesting that they possess innate dormancy. After 8, 20 and 32 months, germination was 22, 90 and 100%, respectively. Further trials have shown that germination may be promoted by scarification by acid, fluctuating temperatures and stratification (Holm et al., 1997). Khan and Chaudri (1957) demonstrated an internal periodicity of germination whereby germinability of seeds increased during the growing season until December after which time it slowly decreased. These increases in germination coincided with the growth cycle of the plant. Maximum emergence occurs from 2 to 3 cm soil depth (Sahai and Bhan, 1991a).

Seed dispersal occurs when the fruiting capsule breaks open into three parts, each of which contains two seeds which normally fall slightly away from the parent plant. Adult plants harvested with the crop may contain seed, and A. tenuifolius is often a contaminant of wheat seed in India (Tripathi, 1977) and is dispersed over long distances in this manner. Seeds may also be dispersed from field to field via farm machinery or manure.


Top of page Yield loss as a result of interference from A. tenuifolius is most severe in India and Pakistan. The range of affected crops has been listed. Yield losses of 42% were recorded in chickpea fields infested with A. tenuifolius (Tripathi, 1967), and competition from this weed is more severe than that from Chenopodium album (Tripathi, 1969).

A. tenuifolius is an alternative host for the root-rot-causing fungus, Macrophomina phaseoli in Pakistan (Anon., 1985), and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum has been isolated from A. tenuifolius in mustard fields (Rathore et al., 1993).

Sharma (1977) noted that one gram of seed was fatal to some birds.


Top of page Oil extracts from A. tenuifolius may be used in the manufacture of paints, varnishes and soap. These oils also have various medicinal and therapeutic properties, for example, their high linoleic acid content makes them useful for the prevention of arteriosclerosis. The seeds are diuretic, and antiseptic when applied externally to ulcers (Anon., 1985; Agrawal, 1990). A. tenuifolius has been used as a manure and its oil cake as a cattle feed (Anon., 1985). The tuberous root system was eaten by humans in ancient times and is still occasionally used as food, and may also be used in the production of adhesives.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed

Human food and beverage

  • Oil/fat

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page Few other Asphodelus species occur as weeds, but where A. aestivus occurs (in Europe and the Middle East) it is distinguished by its flat leaves and more robust habit.

Prevention and Control

Top of page Cultural Control

In India, a regime of two hand weedings, 30 and 45 days after sowing, was more effective than herbicides for controlling A. tenuifolius in winter pulses (Sekhon et al., 1993). In north-west India the time of crop sowing was critical, with early sowings considerably increasing infestation compared to planting in mid-November (Sahai and Bhan, 1991b). Tripathi (1968b) found that manual control by clipping the plants at or close to soil level in January and February did not adequately control the weed. The population density of this weed may also be kept in check by ensuring a high density of crop plants (Sen, 1981), increasing intervals between irrigation (Tripathi, 1968a), and by crop rotation which reduces the soil seed bank. Farmers in India have also used a heavy roller immediately before crop sowing to prevent early seedling emergence.

Chemical Control

The population density and growth of A. tenuifolius in wheat and winter maize can be effectively reduced by early applications of 2,4-D and atrazine, respectively. Singh and Saroha (1975) treated weed species with 2,4-D at several stages after anthesis and found that later treatments allowed more viable seed production. Treatments at the time of 50% flowering prevented seed formation in A. tenuifolius. Isoproturon has been found effective in wheat and mustard, but not in chickpea (Rajput et al., 1993). Applied pre-emergence in Indian mustard (Brassica juncea), yield was significantly improved and weed densities reduced. Pendimethalin is effective in peas and lentils (Sekhon et al., 1993), methabenzthiazuron and metoxuron in mustard (Brassica campestris) (Rajput et al., 1993) and fluchloralin in chick peas (Yadav et al., 1995). For efficient weed management herbicide treatments often need to be supplemented with one manual weeding between 30 and 45 days after sowing.


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Adlakha PA; Shrivastava AK; Sirohi SS; Sharma VK, 1971. Weed Flora of Ludhiana. Indian Journal of Weed Science, 3(1):37-44.

Agrawal VS, 1990. Economic Plants of India. Dehra Dun, India: Bishen Singh Mahendra Pal Singh.

Ahmad M; Baluch A; Soomro SK, 1968. A note on the effect of U-46 and gramaxone weedicides on the rabi weeds of the Hyderabad region. West Pakistan Journal of Agricultural Research, 6(1):125-126.

Anon, 1985. The Wealth of India. Raw Materials. Vol. I. New Delhi, India: Publication & Information Directorate, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research.

Bamber CJ, 1916. Plants of Punjab. Punjab, India: Superintendent Government Printing.

Borg J, 1927. Descriptive Flora of the Maltese Islands, Including the Ferns and Flowering Plants. Malta: Government Printing Office.

Chaudhary SA; Parker C; Kasasian L, 1981. Weeds of Central, Southern and Eastern Arabian Peninsula. Tropical Pest Management, 27(2):181-190.

EPPO, 2014. PQR database. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization.

Holm L; Doll J; Holm E; Pancho J; Herberger J, 1997. World Weeds. Natural Histories and Distribution. New York, USA: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

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

Joshi NC, 1974. Manual of Weed Control. Delhi, India: Researchco Pub.

Khan A; Chaudhri I, 1957. Studies on the seed dormancy of Asphodelus tenuifolius. Proceedings of the Pakistan Science Conference, Lahore, Pakistan, 9:25-26.

Lazarides M; Cowley K; Hohnen P, 1997. CSIRO handbook of Australian weeds. CSIRO handbook of Australian weeds., vii + 264 pp.

Malik RK; Samunder Singh, 1994. Weed flora in gram and raya crops in Haryana state. Haryana Agricultural University Journal of Research, 24(1):7-14

Rajput RL; Gautam DS; Verma OP, 1993. Studies on cultural and chemical weed control in mustard (Brassica campestris). Gujarat Agricultural University Research Journal, 18(2):1-5

Rathore RS; Rajpurohit TS; Solanki JS; Bishnoi HR, 1993. Wild onion - a new record of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. Indian Phytopathology, 46(3):261-262

Reed CF, 1977. Economically important foreign weeds. Potential problems in the United States. Agriculture Handbook No. 498. United States Department of Agriculture. Washington D.C., USA: USDA-ARS.

Richardson IBK; Smythies BE, 1980. 5. Asphodelus L. In: Tutin TG, Heywood VH, Burges NA, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM, Webb DA, eds. Flora Europaea, Volume 5. Alismataceae to Orchidaceae Monocotyledones. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 17.

Sahai B; Bhan VM, 1991. Germination of onion weed (Asphodelus tenuifolius) as influenced by temperature, storage condition and seeding depth. Indian Journal of Agronomy, 36(Supplement):189-193

Sahai B; Bhan VM, 1991. Growth and reproduction of onion weeds (Asphodelus tenuifolius) as influenced by planting time. Indian Journal of Agronomy, 36(Supplement):194-197

Sanjai Chaudhry; Rathi JPS; Chaudhary DK; Singh OP, 2009. Weed management in field pea (Pisum sativum) through agronomic manipulations. International Journal of Plant Sciences (Muzaffarnagar), 4(2):524-526.

Sant HR; Singh RL; Pandey DD, 1979. Productivity of Asphodelus tenuifolius, a common weed of cultivated fields of Varanasi, India. Proceedings of the 7th Asian-Pacific Weed Science Society Conference, Sydney, Australia, 445-446.

Sekhon HS; Guriqbal Singh; Brar JS, 1993. Effect of chemical, mechanical and cultural manipulations on weed growth and grain yield of various pulse crops. Integrated weed management for sustainable agriculture. Proceedings of an Indian Society of Weed Science International Symposium, Hisar, India, 18-20 November 1993 Hisar, Haryana, India; Indian Society of Weed Science, Vol. III:141-146

Sen DN, 1981. Ecological approaches to Indian weeds. Jodhpur, India; Geobios International.

Sen DN; Kasera PK, 1988. Biology of some important Kharif and rabi weeds in Indian arid zone. VIIIe Colloque International sur la Biologie, l'Ecologie et la Systematique des Mauvaises Herbes Paris, France; A.N.P.P., Vol. 2:325-333

Sharma M, 1977. The role of the common sparrow in the control of weeds of the major crops in the Meerut district. Indian Journal of Agricultural Science, 47:224.

Singh HG; Saroha MS, 1975. Effect on viability and germination percentage of weed seeds treated with 2,4-D (amine) at different stages of seed development. PANS, 21(3):289-294

Sped SA; Ahmad AN; Sadiq M, 1979. Density and frequency of weeds in wheat fields of the Punjab Province (Pakistan). Pakistan Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 16(1/2):85-90

Thakur C, 1954. Weeds. Bankipur, Patna, Bihar, India: Motilal Banarasidas Publishers and Booksellers.

Tomar SS; Namdeo KN, 1991. Studies on chemical weed control in mustard. Indian Journal of Agronomy, 36(1):118-121

Tripathi RS, 1967. Mutual interaction of gram (Cicer arietinum L.) and two common weeds (Asphodelus tenuifolius Cav. and Euphorbia dracunculoides Lamk.). Tropical Ecology, 8(1-2):105-109.

Tripathi RS, 1968. Certain autecological observations on Asphodelus tenuifolius Cav., a troublesome weed of Indian agriculture. Tropical Ecology, 9(2):208-219.

Tripathi RS, 1968. Comprison of competitive ability of certain common weed species. Tropical Ecology, 9(1):37-41.

Tripathi RS, 1977. Weed problem - an ecological perspective. Tropical Ecology, 18(2):138-148

Yadav RP; Shrivastava UK; Yadav KS, 1995. Yield and economic analysis of weed-control practices in Indian mustard (Brassica juncea). Indian Journal of Agronomy, 40(1):122-124

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