Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Basella alba
(malabar spinach)

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Datasheet

Basella alba (malabar spinach)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 11 May 2020
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Basella alba
  • Preferred Common Name
  • malabar spinach
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Basella alba is a herbaceous, perennial vine cultivated as a leafy vegetable and ornamental in tropical and subtropical and occasionally extending into temperate regions as an annual. It is listed as a potentia...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Basella alba (malabar spinach); vining habit. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
TitleVining habit
CaptionBasella alba (malabar spinach); vining habit. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Basella alba (malabar spinach); vining habit. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
Vining habitBasella alba (malabar spinach); vining habit. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Basella alba (malabar spinach); vining habit. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
TitleVining habit
CaptionBasella alba (malabar spinach); vining habit. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Basella alba (malabar spinach); vining habit. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
Vining habitBasella alba (malabar spinach); vining habit. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Basella alba (Malabar spinach); habit, showing flowers and  red stems. Chennai, Tamilnadu, India. January 2015.
TitleHabit
CaptionBasella alba (Malabar spinach); habit, showing flowers and red stems. Chennai, Tamilnadu, India. January 2015.
CopyrightPublic Domain - Released by Dr. S. Soundarapandian/via wikipedia - CC0 1.0
Basella alba (Malabar spinach); habit, showing flowers and  red stems. Chennai, Tamilnadu, India. January 2015.
HabitBasella alba (Malabar spinach); habit, showing flowers and red stems. Chennai, Tamilnadu, India. January 2015.Public Domain - Released by Dr. S. Soundarapandian/via wikipedia - CC0 1.0
Basella alba (Malabar spinach); flowers and leaves. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
TitleFlowers
CaptionBasella alba (Malabar spinach); flowers and leaves. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Basella alba (Malabar spinach); flowers and leaves. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.
FlowersBasella alba (Malabar spinach); flowers and leaves. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. August 2009.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Basella alba (Malabar spinach); fruits. Bandlaguda, Rangareddy district, Andhra Pradesh, India. October 2009.
TitleFruits
CaptionBasella alba (Malabar spinach); fruits. Bandlaguda, Rangareddy district, Andhra Pradesh, India. October 2009.
Copyright©N. Aditya Madhav (Adityamadhav83)-2009/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Basella alba (Malabar spinach); fruits. Bandlaguda, Rangareddy district, Andhra Pradesh, India. October 2009.
FruitsBasella alba (Malabar spinach); fruits. Bandlaguda, Rangareddy district, Andhra Pradesh, India. October 2009.©N. Aditya Madhav (Adityamadhav83)-2009/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Basella alba L.

Preferred Common Name

  • malabar spinach

Other Scientific Names

  • Basella cordifolia Lam.
  • Basella crassifolia Salisb.
  • Basella japonica Burm.f.
  • Basella lucida L.
  • Basella nigra Lour.
  • Basella ramosa J.Jacq. ex Spreng.
  • Basella rubra L.
  • Basella volubilis Salisb.
  • Gandola nigra (Lour.) Raf.
  • Gandola rubra Rumph. ex L.

International Common Names

  • English: buffalo spinach; Ceylon spinach; climbing spinach; country spinach; east Indian spinach; Indian saag; Indian spinach; malabar nightshade; red vine spinach; slippery vegetable; Suriname spinach; vine spinach
  • Spanish: alcaparra; espinaca basela; espinaca blanca; espinaca China; espinaca de Ceilan; espinaca de la China; espinaca de malabar
  • French: baselle; baselle blanche; brède d’Angola; brède de malabar; epinard de malabar
  • Arabic: malabâr
  • Chinese: chan cai; luo kui; mu er cai; shan ts’oi; zhuan cai
  • German: Indischer Spinat; Malabarspinat; weisse Beerblum

Local Common Names

  • Bahamas: white spinach
  • Cambodia: chrâlong
  • Cuba: espinaca
  • Denmark: Indisk spinat; malabarspinat
  • East Africa: mboga buterezi
  • Finland: malabarinpinnatti
  • Germany: malabarspinat
  • India: pui shaak; bansali; basala urok; basalacheera; lalbachlu; paasaangalli; paasakkeerai; pappadacheera; pasalikeera; poi vasalacheera; red vine spinach; upodika; urok shumban; valchi bhagi; valchi bhagi; vasalaccira; vasalakkirai; velbendi
  • Indonesia: gendola; genjerot
  • Italy: basella; bassella bianca; spinaccio d’America; spinaccio del malabar; spinaccio della Cina; spinacio della China
  • Japan: tsuru-murasaki
  • Kenya: ndemra
  • Korea, Republic of: rakkyu
  • Laos: pang
  • Malaysia: gendola; remayong; tembayung
  • Nepal: poi saag
  • Netherlands: basella; Ceylonspinazie; malabar spinazieE; oostindische spinazie
  • Pakistan: poi
  • Philippines: alugbati; dundula; libato
  • Portugal: bacela; bertalha; bredo de Angola; bretalha
  • Puerto Rico: acelga trepadora; bretaña; espinaca de Nueva Zelandia; libato
  • Russian Federation/Russia (Europe): malabarskij spinat
  • Spain: espinac de Ceilan
  • Sweden: Indisk spenat; malabarspenat
  • Tanzania: belaga; mjogo; ndelema
  • Thailand: phakpang; phakplang; phakplang-yai
  • Turkey: pazu
  • USA: īnika
  • Vietnam: mong toi; mùng toi

EPPO code

  • BADAL (Basella alba)

Summary of Invasiveness

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Basella alba is a herbaceous, perennial vine cultivated as a leafy vegetable and ornamental in tropical and subtropical and occasionally extending into temperate regions as an annual. It is listed as a potential environmental weed in Australia and as a weed of sugarcane fields on Iriomote Island, Japan. The species is considered an invasive species in Cambodia, China, Philippines, Taiwan, Hawaii, Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, French Polynesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea and the US Minor Outlying Islands. Although no details of its invasiveness are provided, B. alba can grow rampantly in ideal conditions and can become invasive if not properly managed when it is in cultivation. Given that species reproduces easily, by seeds and vegetatively, and grows quickly, B. alba has a great capacity to become invasive in suitable areas. More information is needed on this species’ invasiveness and its impacts to properly assess how it is affecting habitats and other species, and determine the risk it poses to countries where it is not yet invasive.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Caryophyllales
  •                         Family: Basellaceae
  •                             Genus: Basella
  •                                 Species: Basella alba

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Basellaceae family comprises four genera and 20 species. Some species from this family were formerly placed in the Chenopodiaceae or Portulacaceae (PIER, 2017).

Basella cananifolia is an invalid name for B. alba (The Plant List, 2013). Linnaeus published B. rubra and B. alba as two distinct species in Species Plantarum, separating them by leaf characters and the stem colour. However, a number of studies since have not found evidence that B. rubra is a distinct species, and it has been reduced to a synonym of B. alba (Deshmukh and Gaikwad, 2014).

Description

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The following description is from Flora of Panama (2017):

Succulent glabrous herb becoming a slender, twining vine, the stems at first stout, to 2 cm thick, green, after several months of growth and attaining height of 15-45 cm, narrowing, sometimes abruptly and becoming slender, elongate and climbing. Leaves sessile or short petiolate, 4-7 cm long, entire, fleshy, ovate, often broadly so, the juvenile leaves often larger, apically rounded, obtuse or acute, basally cuneate, truncate, or cordate, the lateral venation somewhat obscure, ca. 5 veins on each side, minor venation obscure; petioles stout, to 8 cm long or wanting. Inflorescences axillary or subterminal spikes to 15 cm long, the rachis stout or slender depending on the maturity of the plant; flowers subsessile or pedicellate on juvenile forms, situated on the apical portion of the rachis; bract scale-like; bracteoles calyx-like, 1-2 mm long, acute. Flowers perfect, sepals white, pink, or red, 3-5 mm long, united to above the middle, urceolate to cylindrical, the 5 lobes broad, short, cucullate; stamens included, inserted at the base of the perianth lobes, the filaments short, the anthers cordate, included; ovary conical, l-locular, sometimes partitioned, the 3 styles slender, papillose pilose. Fruit a dark purple or black baccate drupe, the perianth parts enlarged, succulent and enveloping the globose seed and ovary.

Three types can be distinguished: (i) the most common type with dark green, ovate or almost round leaves; (ii) with red stems and reddish, ovate to almost round leaves, often planted as an ornamental; and (iii) with heart-shaped, dark green leaves (Elzebroek and Wind, 2008).

Plant Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated
Vine / climber

Distribution

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The exact origin of B. alba is not known, and many resources give conflicting information. It has been reported as native to Africa and/or Asia, but without conclusive evidence (PIER, 2017). For example, it is listed as native to the Indian Subcontinent, South East Asia and New Guinea in the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (WCSP, 2017), but as introduced in those areas by other sources (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; PIER, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017). Eriksson (2007) reports the species as possibly native to Africa based on the occurrence of what he considers to be natural populations, but he also reports that its cultivation and subsequent naturalization has obscured its origin. Pollen records from Lake Malawi in East Africa provide evidence for B. alba being present in that region during the Pleistocene (DeBusk, 1998). Asia is often attributed as the place of origin of B. alba due to its cultivation in South East Asia and China since ancient times (PROTA, 2017), and as Linnaeus corrected the locality information of the type specimen from Syria to China in the second edition of Species Plantarum (Cook, 2010).

It is now widely cultivated in the tropics, extending to the subtropics and even to temperate zones as an annual (PROTA, 2017). In tropical Africa, it is common in warm, humid regions (PROTA, 2017). The species is present in Asia, Africa, North America, Central America, the Caribbean, South America; Europe, Asia and Oceania (Acevedo-Rodríguez and Strong, 2012; Flora of North America, 2017; India Biodiversity Portal, 2017; PFAF, 2017; PROTA, 2017; PIER, 2017; USDA-ARS, 2017; ZipcodeZoo, 2017).

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: 16 Apr 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Africa

AlgeriaPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
AngolaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
BeninPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2017)
BurundiPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
CameroonPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
Central African RepublicPresentIntroducedWCSP (2017)
ChadPresentIntroducedWCSP (2017)
Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
Congo, Republic of thePresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
Côte d'IvoirePresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
Equatorial GuineaPresentIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
GabonPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden (2017)
GhanaPresentIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
Guinea-BissauPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
KenyaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
LiberiaPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
MadagascarPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
MalawiPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
MauritiusPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
-RodriguesPresentIntroducedWCSP (2017)
MozambiquePresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
NamibiaPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
NigerPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
NigeriaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
RwandaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
São Tomé and PríncipePresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
SenegalPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
Sierra LeonePresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2017)
South SudanPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
SudanPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
TanzaniaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2017)
TogoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2017)
UgandaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
ZambiaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)Present in wild and cultivation

Asia

BangladeshPresentPFAF (2017); WCSP (2017)Reported as native and introduced
BhutanPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
BruneiPresentNativeWCSP (2017)
CambodiaPresentPIER (2017); USDA-ARS (2017); WCSP (2017)Reported as being native and introduced. Where reported as introduced, reported either as invasive or naturalized. Present in wild and cultivation
China
-HainanPresentIntroducedWCSP (2017)
-YunnanPresentIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
Hong KongPresentIntroducedPIER (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
IndiaPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2017); WCSP (2017)
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2017)
-Andhra PradeshPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2017)
-AssamPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2017)
-KeralaPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2017)Uncommon in forest borders and scrub jungles. Found on plains up to 2000m elevation
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedIndia Biodiversity Portal (2017)
-Uttar PradeshPresentCABI Data Mining (Undated)
IndonesiaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
-JavaPresentUSDA-ARS (2017); WCSP (2017)Listed as native and introduced. Present in wild and cultivation
-Lesser Sunda IslandsPresentIntroducedWCSP (2017)
-Maluku IslandsPresentNativeWCSP (2017)
-SulawesiPresentNativeWCSP (2017)
-SumatraPresentUSDA-ARS (2017); WCSP (2017)Listed as native and as introduced and naturalised
JapanPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2017)
-Ryukyu IslandsPresentIshimine et al. (1992)Weed in sugarcane fields
LaosPresentUSDA-ARS (2017); WCSP (2017)Listed as native and as introduced and naturalised. Present in wild and cultivation
Malaysia
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNativeWCSP (2017)
-SabahPresentIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
-SarawakPresentIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
MyanmarPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)
NepalPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2017)
PakistanPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2017)
PhilippinesPresentPIER (2017); USDA-ARS (2017); WCSP (2017)Reported as being introduced or possibly native. Where reported as introduced, reported either as invasive or naturalized. Present in wild and cultivation
SingaporePresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2017)
SyriaPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden (2017)
TaiwanPresentIntroducedInvasiveGISIN (2017); USDA-ARS (2017)
ThailandPresentUSDA-ARS (2017); WCSP (2017)Listed as native and as introduced and naturalised. Present in wild and cultivation
VietnamPresentUSDA-ARS (2017); WCSP (2017)Listed as native and as introduced and naturalised. Present in wild and cultivation

Europe

CzechiaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedNaturalizedDAISIE (2017)
FrancePresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1824Winters (1963)
GermanyPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
NetherlandsPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
SpainPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
United KingdomPresentIntroduced1689Robertson (2003); PFAF (2017)First reported in 1689 as a garden plant in Scotland

North America

Antigua and BarbudaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
BahamasPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1889Gardiner and Brace (1889)Introduced from the East Indies
BarbadosPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012); USDA-ARS (2017)
BelizePresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden (2017)
British Virgin IslandsPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedD'Arcy (1967)As often escaping but not persistent in Tortola
CanadaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
-British ColumbiaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
-Nova ScotiaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
-OntarioPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
DominicaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedNew York Botanical Garden (2017)
Dominican RepublicPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
GuatemalaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedUSDA-ARS (2017)
HaitiPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
HondurasPresentIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden (2017)
JamaicaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)
MexicoPresentIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
Netherlands AntillesPresentIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
PanamaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017); Missouri Botanical Garden (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
Puerto RicoPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012)Vieques
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentIntroduced1901Alexander (1901)
Saint LuciaPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodríguez and Strong (2012); USDA-ARS (2017)
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced1806Cleall et al. (1807)Ornamental at the Botanical Garden in St. Vincent
Trinidad and TobagoPresentIntroduced1928Missouri Botanical Garden (2017)
U.S. Virgin IslandsPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedNew York Botanical Garden (2017)
United StatesPresentIntroduced1899InvasiveWinters (1963); PIER (2017)Invasive in Hawaii. Present in wild and cultivation
-AlabamaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-AlaskaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-ArizonaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-ArkansasPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-CaliforniaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora of North America Editorial Committee (2017)
-ColoradoPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-FloridaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-GeorgiaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2017); USDA-ARS (2017)Oahu Island. Present in wild and cultivation
-IndianaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora of North America Editorial Committee (2017)
-KentuckyPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora of North America Editorial Committee (2017)
-LouisianaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora of North America Editorial Committee (2017)
-MarylandPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora of North America Editorial Committee (2017)
-MassachusettsPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora of North America Editorial Committee (2017)
-MichiganPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-MississippiPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-MissouriPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedMissouri Botanical Garden (2017a)Grown as an annual
-NevadaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-New YorkPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora of North America Editorial Committee (2017)
-North CarolinaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-OhioPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-OklahomaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-OregonPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-PennsylvaniaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-South CarolinaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora of North America Editorial Committee (2017)
-TennesseePresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-TexasPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-VirginiaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-WashingtonPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedDave's Garden (2017)
-WisconsinPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora of North America Editorial Committee (2017)

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedAtlas of Living Australia (2017)
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedAtlas of Living Australia (2017)
-TasmaniaPresentIntroducedAtlas of Living Australia (2017)
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedAtlas of Living Australia (2017)
Christmas IslandPresentWCSP (2017); ZipcodeZoo (2017)Reported as native and introduced
Cook IslandsPresentIntroducedPIER (2017)
FijiPresentIntroducedZipcodeZoo (2017)
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2017); USDA-ARS (2017)Invasive on Moorea Island. Present in wild and cultivation
NauruPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2017)Also as cultivated
New ZealandPresentIntroducedAtlas of Living Australia (2017)
PalauPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2017); USDA-ARS (2017)Ngeanges Island.
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2017); USDA-ARS (2017)
Solomon IslandsPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)
U.S. Minor Outlying IslandsPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
-Midway IslandsPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
VanuatuPresentIntroducedPFAF (2017)

South America

BrazilPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017); Flora do Brasil (2017)
-AmazonasPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-BahiaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-CearaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-Distrito FederalPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-Minas GeraisPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-ParaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-ParaibaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-ParanaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-Rio de JaneiroPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-Rio Grande do SulPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-Santa CatarinaPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
-Sao PauloPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedFlora do Brasil (2017)
ColombiaPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2017); USDA-ARS (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
EcuadorPresentIntroducedInvasivePIER (2017); Missouri Botanical Garden (2017); USDA-ARS (2017)Continental Ecuador. Present in wild and cultivation
French GuianaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
GuyanaPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
PeruPresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017); Missouri Botanical Garden (2017)Present in wild and cultivation
SurinamePresentIntroducedNaturalizedUSDA-ARS (2017)Present in wild and cultivation

History of Introduction and Spread

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Basella alba is found in the tropical, subtropical and even temperate areas of all continents; its spread being principally due to its cultivation as an ornamental and its use as a vegetable since ancient times (PFAF, 2017; PROTA, 2017). There is no conclusive evidence as where the species is truly native and it is reported as a pantropical cultivated species (PROTA, 2017).

Basella alba is widely cultivated in Europe, the red stemmed forms in particular are commonly planted as ornamentals, but it is not considered naturalized (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2011; PROTA, 2017). It was being cultivated in gardens in Scotland by 1689 (Robertson, 2003), and was in cultivation in England by 1691 (Winters,1963). It is recorded being grown as a vegetable in France in 1824 and 1829, and a variety from China was introduced in 1839 (Winters,1963). It has been reported as being present as an ornamental in the Caribbean since 1806 (Cleall et al., 1807). It was introduced into the USA by the US Department of Agriculture in 1899 from France, but there are reports of some apparent private purchases prior to 1863 (Winters, 1963).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Bahamas 1839 Ornamental purposes (pathway cause) No No Gardiner and Brace (1889) Introduced from the East Indies.
Cuba 1921 Ornamental purposes (pathway cause) Yes No New York Botanical Garden (2017)
Saint Kitts and Nevis 1901 Ornamental purposes (pathway cause) No No Alexander (1901)
UK 1928 Ornamental purposes (pathway cause) No No Missouri Botanical Garden (2017)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1806 Ornamental purposes (pathway cause) No No Cleall et al. (1807) Cultivated as an ornamental at the Botanical Garden
UK 1689 Ornamental purposes (pathway cause) No No Robertson (2003) Scotland
France (mainland) 1824 Crop production (pathway cause) No No Winters (1963)
USA 1899 Yes No Winters (1963)

Risk of Introduction

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Basella alba has a high risk of introduction. The species is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas where it is grown primarily as a vegetable (PROTA, 2017; Useful Tropical Plants, 2017). It is also widely used as an ornamental worldwide, its popularity extending into temperate areas where grows as an annual (PFAF, 2017). It has the potential to be intentionally introduced into countries or areas where the species is still not reported, as seeds and plants are available in many countries and sold via the internet. The species is also available at local markets and nurseries (PROTA, 2017). B. alba also has commercial potential for other uses in the food, cosmetic and dye industries (PFAF, 2017; PROTA, 2017).

Habitat

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Basella alba is reported as growing in thickets, hills, moist and dry deciduous forests, forest edges, plains, scrub jungle, cliffs, margins of cultivated land, near rivers or streams, cultivated near houses, clearings and disturbed areas (African Plant Database, 2020; India Biodiversity Portal, 2017; PIER, 2017).

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

There are no reports of hybrids in cultivation or in the wild for B. alba (PIER, 2017). The chromosome numbers reported for the species are 2n=44,48 (PROTA, 2017). Germplasm resources are available at The World Vegetable Center and at USDA-ARS facilities (Hughes and Ebert, 2013; USDA-ARS, 2017). DNA barcodes are available for this species at Barcode of Life Data System (BOLDS, 2017).

The species is reported by Ganashan et al. (1996) as showing high genetic diversity in Sri Lanka.

Reproductive Biology

Basella alba reproduces by seeds and vegetatively by stem cuttings and rhizomes (PIER, 2017; PROTA, 2017). It will also form roots when stem nodes touch the ground (Dave’s Garden, 2017). Pollination is cleistogamous although some pollination by short-tongued insects is reported (Bogle, 1969).

No breeding programmes are known to exist, although several seed companies in India and the United States produce seeds to be sold locally and internationally (PROTA, 2017).

Physiology and Phenology

Basella alba will not flower if the length of daylight is more than 13 hours per day (Useful Tropical Plants, 2017). It is reported as flowering from May to September and fruiting from July to August (ZipcodeZoo, 2017). The seeds require temperatures of 18 - 21°C and 10-21 days to germinate. Pre-soaking the seeds for 24 hours in warm water will shorten the germination time. The species can produce mature fruits within 70 days of planting in warm climates (PIER, 2017).

Longevity

Basella alba is a perennial vine that is variously reported as being short and long lived (PROTA, 2017; Csurhes and Edwards,1998). If not taken care of, it tends to die back after two or more years. With fertilizers, the plants can be maintained for long periods. In subtropical and temperate regions, it behaves like an annual as it is frost intolerant and will not do well if night temperature drops below 14°C (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017a).

Environmental Requirements

The growth of B. alba is limited by low temperatures, altitudes higher than 500 m and day/night temperature variations (PIER, 2017). Although it is cultivated worldwide up to 2600 m elevation and in tropical, subtropical and temperate areas, the species will grow best in hot, dry to humid climates and in areas below 500 m elevation (PROTA; 2017; ZipcodeZoo, 2017). The optimum mean annual temperatures for B. alba are 23 to 27°C, but it can tolerate a temperature range of 10 to 35°C. It does not tolerate frost and requires a minimum daytime temperature of 15°C. It does not do well if night temperature drops below 14°C, but will tolerate night temperatures occasionally falling below 10°C. It prefers an annual precipitation range of 2000 to 2500 mm, but will tolerate 700 to 4200 mm. The species prefers well-drained fertile sandy loam soils and full sun to light shade situations. It can grow in soils with a pH range of 5.5 – 7, but can tolerate 4.3 - 7.5. It tolerates poor soils and short periods of drought (Useful Tropical Plants, 2017). It is intolerant to salinity and standing water (PROTA, 2017).

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])
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Tolerated Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
60 -46

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Absolute minimum temperature (ºC) 4
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 10 35

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration7004200number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Bimodal
Summer
Uniform
Winter

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • heavy
  • light
  • medium

Special soil tolerances

  • infertile

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Alternaria alternata Pathogen Leaves not specific N
Bipolaris Pathogen Leaves not specific N
Cercospora basellae-albae Pathogen Leaves to species N
Cochliobolus lunatus Pathogen Leaves not specific N
Colletotrichum Pathogen Leaves not specific N
Fusarium solani Pathogen Roots not specific N
Liriomyza Herbivore Leaves not specific , N
Lygus lineolaris Herbivore Leaves/Stems not specific , N
Meloidogyne incognita Parasite Roots not specific N
Plectonycha correntina Herbivore Leaves not specific N
Pseudococcus jackbeardsleyi Herbivore Leaves not specific N
Pythium aphanidermatum Pathogen Other/All Stages not specific N

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Basella alba is resistant to many pests and diseases because of its thick cuticle, but it is susceptible to nematodes (PIER, 2017; PROTA, 2017).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

Basella alba often grows near rivers and streams so it is possible that it is dispersed by water (PIER, 2017).

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

The fruits are eaten by birds, possibly acting as dispersers (Iplantz, 2020).

Intentional Introduction

Basella alba has been introduced worldwide as an ornamental, a vegetable and to be used in ethnobotany since ancient times (PROTA, 2017).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop productionSmall-scale production mixed with other vegetables Yes PROTA, 2017
Digestion and excretionDispersed by birds Yes Iplantz, 2020
Disturbance Yes PROTA, 2017
Escape from confinement or garden escapePossible as it is cultivated as an ornamental Yes
Garden waste disposalCan reseed in compost, even after two years Yes Dave's Garden, 2017
HorticultureRed varieties popular in gardening Yes Yes PROTA, 2017
Internet salesSeeds and plants sold online Yes Yes ,
Medicinal useUsed in traditional medicine Yes Yes PROTA, 2017
Nursery tradePlants available in nurseries in a number of contries Yes Yes ,
Off-site preservation Germplasm stored at various sites Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2017
Ornamental purposes Yes Yes PROTA, 2017
People foragingIn some African countries people forage the leaves of plants growing near houses Yes Yes PROTA, 2017
Seed tradeAvailable in seed catalogues Yes Yes PROTA, 2017

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Debris and waste associated with human activitiesPossibly in waste associated to its cultivation and consumption Yes Dave's Garden, 2017
Floating vegetation and debrisPossible at it grows near streams and rivers Yes PIER, 2017
GermplasmGermplasm collections available at various sites Yes Yes USDA-ARS, 2017
MailSold online Yes Yes
Soil, sand and gravelPossibly in waste associated with its cultivation and consumption Yes Dave's Garden, 2017
WaterPossibly water dispersed as it grows near rivers and streams Yes PIER, 2017

Impact Summary

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

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact mechanisms
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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Economic Value

Basella alba is widely cultivated for its edible leaves (Encyclopedia of Life, 2017; PROTA, 2017). The species is sold at local markets, nurseries and on the internet (Useful Tropical Plants, 2017). The leaves can be found in speciality grocery stores, marketed as a vegetable (Encyclopedia of Life, 2017). A red dye, obtained from the fruits, is used as a rouge, ink, food colouring, in cosmetics and as a dye for official seals (Hanelt, 2017; Useful Tropical Plants, 2017). B. alba seeds are being proposed as a source of non-conventional oils for use in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries (Diemeleou et al., 2014).

Social Benefit

Basella alba is commonly grown as a vegetable and as an ornamental (PROTA, 2017; Useful Tropical Plants, 2017). Its use as a vegetable is popular in Europe, Asia and Africa, being a good source of vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. The leaves are used as a substitute for spinach, hence the use of the word “spinach” as a part of some of its common names. An infusion of the leaves is prepared as a tea substitute. The species is also used as a thickening agent for soups and stews due to its mucilaginous properties (Hanelt, 2017; PROTA, 2017).

Basella alba has been reported as having potential antiulcer, antioxidant, cytotoxic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, nephroprotective and wound healing properties and functioning as a central nervous system depressant(Kumar et al., 2013). The fruit extracts have potential applications as cancer treatments (Kumar et al., 2015).

Almost all parts of the plants are used in traditional medicine, which include being used as a laxative, rubefacient, demulcent, diuretic, febrifuge, an astringent; and to treat conjunctivitis, catarrh, dysentery, diarrhoea, indigestion, constipation, boils and sores and as an antidote to poison (Useful Tropical Plants, 2017; National Parks Board, 2020). The leaves are masticated to cure aphthae in India (Hebbar et al., 2004). A popular postpartum tonic is produced from B. alba in Thailand (Panyaphu et al., 2011). Wang and Ng (2001) report the seeds as having antifungal properties.

In East Africa the plant is given to livestock to increase milk production (PROTA, 2017).

Environmental Services

Basella alba is consumed by mountain gorillas in Africa (Ganas et al., 2009). Extracts from the species have shown to inhibit development in some insects (Haque et al., 2000).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Forage

Environmental

  • Amenity

General

  • Botanical garden/zoo

Human food and beverage

  • Food additive
  • Leaves (for beverage)
  • Vegetable

Materials

  • Cosmetics
  • Dye/tanning
  • Oils

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Ornamental

  • Potted plant
  • Seed trade

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Basella alba can be confused with Anredera cordifolia. A. cordifolia can be distinguished from B. alba by its slender racemes of pedicellate, non-fleshy flowers (PROTA, 2017).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures

Basella alba is a fast-growing vine that can be harvested about once a week by removing leaves and young stems. This will both encourage the production of more stems to harvest, keep the plants from taking over large areas (Useful Tropical Plants, 2017).

Biological Control

Plectonycha correntina has been proposed as the biological control of Anredera cordifolia in Argentina (Cagnotti et al., 2007). Since the plant hosts of this insect are restricted to the Basellaceae family, its use as a biological control for B. alba should be studied.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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The native range of B. alba has not been definitively established. More information about the invasiveness of B. alba and the effects of the species on natural habitats and other species is needed.

References

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Acevedo-Rodríguez, P., Strong, M. T., 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies, Washington, DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution.1192 pp. http://botany.si.edu/Antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm

African Plant Database, 2020. African Plant Database. In: African Plant Database : Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de Geneve & South African National Biodiversity Institute.http://www.ville-ge.ch/musinfo/bd/cjb/africa/recherche.php

Alexander, W. H., 1901. The flora of St. Christopher. Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, 33, 207-219.

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BOLDS, 2017. Kingdoms of Life being barcoded. In: Kingdoms of Life being barcoded : BOLD Systems.http://www.boldsystems.org/index.php/TaxBrowser_Home

Cagnotti, C., McKay, F., Gandolfo, D., 2007. Biology and host specificity of Plectonycha correntina Lacordaire (Chrysomelidae), a candidate for the biological control of Anredera cordifolia (Tenore) Steenis (Basellaceae). African Entomology, 15(2), 300-309. http://journals.sabinet.co.za/essa

Cleall E, Wadman J, Wadman J, Baker J, Pinney J, Chaffey J, Bond W, Baine WNN, Anderson A, 1807. Papers in colonies and trade. Transactions of the Society, Instituted at London, for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, 25, 143-212.

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D’Arcy WG, 1967. Annotated checklist of the dicotyledons of Tortola, Virgin Islands. Rhodora, 69(780), 385-450.

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Diemeleou, C. A., Zoue, L. T., Niamke, S. L., 2014. Basella alba seeds as a novel source of non-conventional oil with beneficial qualities. Romanian Biotechnological Letters, 19(1), 8966-8978. http://www.rombio.eu/vol19nr1/8%20lucr%2013%20Lessoy%20rec%2020%20.10.2013%20ac%204.12.pdf

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Iplantz, 2020. Basella alba. Iplantz Useful Plants For Warm Climates.https://www.iplantz.com/plant/203/basella-alba/

Ishimine Y, Aramoto M, Shinzato T, Yamamori N, Yonemori S, 1992. Distribution of cropland weeds and naturalized plants in Iriomote Island and its aspects in emergence. Science bulletin of the College of Agriculture, University of the Ryukyus, 39, 157-175.

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Kumar, S. S., Prabhakaran Manoj, Parvatam Giridhar, Richa Shrivastava, Mausumi Bharadwaj, 2015. Fruit extracts of Basella rubra that are rich in bioactives and betalains exhibit antioxidant activity and cytotoxicity against human cervical carcinoma cells. Journal of Functional Foods, 15, 509-515. doi: 10.1016/j.jff.2015.03.052

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Singh, A. U., Vinod Kumar, 2012. Studies on the disease complex incidence by Meloidogyne incognita and Fusarium solani on Poi, Basella rubra. Archives of Phytopathology and Plant Protection, 45(16), 1968-1971. doi: 10.1080/03235408.2012.718689

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Zhang, S., Fu, Y., Mersha, Z., Mo, X., Palmateer, A. J., 2011. First report of a leaf spot on Basella alba caused by a Bipolaris sp. in Florida. Plant Disease, 95(7), 880-881. doi: 10.1094/PDIS-04-11-0276

ZipcodeZoo, 2017. Basella alba. Bethesda, Maryland, USA: The Bayscience Foundation, Inc. http://zipcodezoo.com/plants

Distribution References

Acevedo-Rodríguez P, Strong M T, 2012. Catalogue of the Seed Plants of the West Indies. Washington, DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution. 1192 pp. http://botany.si.edu/Antilles/WestIndies/catalog.htm

Alexander W H, 1901. The flora of St. Christopher. Bulletin of the American Geographical Society. 207-219.

Atlas of Living Australia, 2017. Atlas of Living Australia. In: Atlas of Living Australia. Canberra, ACT, Australia: GBIF.

CABI Data Mining, Undated. CAB Abstracts Data Mining.,

CABI, 2020. CABI Distribution Database: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI

Cleall E, Wadman J, Baker J, Pinney J, Chaffey J, Bond W, Baine W, Anderson A, 1807. Papers in colonies and trade. In: Transactions of the Society, Instituted at London, for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, 25 143-212.

DAISIE, 2017. Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe. In: Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe. http://www.europe-aliens.org/

D'Arcy WG, 1967. Annotated checklist of the dicotyledons of Tortola, Virgin Islands. In: Rhodora, 69 (780) 385-450.

Dave's Garden, 2017. Dave's Garden. In: Dave's Garden. El Segundo, California, USA: Internet Brands. http://davesgarden.com

Flora do Brasil, 2017. Brazilian flora 2020. In: Brazilian flora 2020. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Rio de Janeiro Botanic Garden. http://floradobrasil.jbrj.gov.br

Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2017. Flora of China. In: Flora of China. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=2

Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2017. Flora of North America North of Mexico. In: Flora of North America North of Mexico. St. Louis, Missouri and Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden and Harvard University Herbaria. http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=1

Gardiner J, Brace LJK, 1889. Provisional list of the plants of the Bahama Islands. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 349-407.

GISIN, 2017. Global Invasive Species Information Network. http://www.gisin.org

India Biodiversity Portal, 2017. Online Portal of India Biodiversity. In: Online Portal of India Biodiversity. http://indiabiodiversity.org/species/list

Ishimine Y , M Aramoto , T Shinzato , N Yamamori and , S Yonemori, 1992. Distribution of cropland weeds and naturalized plants in Iriomote Island and its aspects in emergence. Science bulletin of the College of Agriculture, University of the Ryukyus. 157-175.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2017. Tropicos database. In: Tropicos database. St. Louis, Missouri, USA: Missouri Botanical Garden. http://www.tropicos.org/

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Contributors

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02/01/2018 Original text by:

Jeanine Vélez-Gavilán, Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, USA

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