Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Boerhavia coccinea
(scarlet spiderling)

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Datasheet

Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Boerhavia coccinea
  • Preferred Common Name
  • scarlet spiderling
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Boerhavia coccinea is a low-lying, sprawling, perennial herb. The plant produces stems that can exceed a metre in length. The flowers are often bright scarlet to red-violet in colour but can be shades of pink,...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); leaf and flowers. Kealia Pond, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July 2013.
TitleLeaf and flowers
CaptionBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); leaf and flowers. Kealia Pond, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July 2013.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2013 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); leaf and flowers. Kealia Pond, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July 2013.
Leaf and flowersBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); leaf and flowers. Kealia Pond, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July 2013.©Forest & Kim Starr-2013 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); flowers and fruits. State Nursery, Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2003.
TitleFlowers and fruits
CaptionBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); flowers and fruits. State Nursery, Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2003.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2003 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); flowers and fruits. State Nursery, Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2003.
Flowers and fruitsBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); flowers and fruits. State Nursery, Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2003.©Forest & Kim Starr-2003 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); flowers and fruits. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA.
TitleFlowers and fruits
CaptionBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); flowers and fruits. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); flowers and fruits. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA.
Flowers and fruitsBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); flowers and fruits. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA. ©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit. State Nursery, Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2003.
TitleHabit
CaptionBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit. State Nursery, Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2003.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2003 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit. State Nursery, Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2003.
HabitBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit. State Nursery, Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2003.©Forest & Kim Starr-2003 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit. Paia, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.
TitleHabit.
CaptionBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit. Paia, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit. Paia, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.
Habit.Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit. Paia, Maui, Hawaii, USA. April 2006.©Forest & Kim Starr-2006 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit, with mature stems. Mokolii, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. April 2005.
TitleHabit
CaptionBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit, with mature stems. Mokolii, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. April 2005.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2005 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit, with mature stems. Mokolii, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. April 2005.
HabitBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); habit, with mature stems. Mokolii, Oahu, Hawaii, USA. April 2005.©Forest & Kim Starr-2005 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); undersurface of leaf, and stem. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA. September 2009.
TitleLeaf and stem
CaptionBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); undersurface of leaf, and stem. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA. September 2009.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); undersurface of leaf, and stem. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA. September 2009.
Leaf and stemBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); undersurface of leaf, and stem. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA. September 2009.©Forest & Kim Starr-2009 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); leaves. Kealia Pond, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2013.
TitleLeaves
CaptionBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); leaves. Kealia Pond, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2013.
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr-2013 - CC BY 3.0
Boerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); leaves. Kealia Pond, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2013.
LeavesBoerhavia coccinea (scarlet spiderling); leaves. Kealia Pond, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June 2013.©Forest & Kim Starr-2013 - CC BY 3.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Boerhavia coccinea Mill.

Preferred Common Name

  • scarlet spiderling

Other Scientific Names

  • Boerhavia agglutinans Batt. & Trab.
  • Boerhavia bracteata T. Cooke
  • Boerhavia caribaea Jacq.
  • Boerhavia diandra Aubl.
  • Boerhavia ixodes Standl.
  • Boerhavia marlothii Heimerl
  • Boerhavia nantocana Schauer
  • Boerhavia viscosa Lag. & Rodr.

International Common Names

  • English: red boerhavia; wine-flower
  • Spanish: hierba de la hormiga; hierba del cancer; jaunilipin; juaninipili; mata pavo; patagon; tostón; yerba de puerco
  • French: bécabar bâtard; herbe pintade; macatia vert
  • Chinese: hong xi xin

Local Common Names

  • Argentina: koocel’qo
  • Australia: tar vine; tarvine
  • Brazil: pep-pinto
  • Ethiopia: golosso
  • India: biskhapara; gadahpurna; gadha-cand
  • Mexico: condesa; juana huipili
  • Paraguay: ka'arurupe
  • South Africa: perskleefbossie
  • Tanzania: nzimwe

EPPO code

  • BOECC (Boerhavia coccinea)

Summary of Invasiveness

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Boerhavia coccinea is a low-lying, sprawling, perennial herb. The plant produces stems that can exceed a metre in length. The flowers are often bright scarlet to red-violet in colour but can be shades of pink, yellow or white. It grows in a wide variety of habitats, such as disturbed, rocky and sandy ground, cultivation edges, waste places, roadsides, seashore and dry riverbeds. It is a widespread pantropical plant whose native range is uncertain, but probably encompasses the southern USA, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. It has been introduced into Asia, Africa, Australia and some of the Pacific islands, including the Hawaiian Islands. In Hawaii, B. coccinea is an invasive species threatening native plant species and a noxious weed, rapidly spreading and now common in coastal or slightly inland disturbed places such as roadsides.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Caryophyllales
  •                         Family: Nyctaginaceae
  •                             Genus: Boerhavia
  •                                 Species: Boerhavia coccinea

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Boerhavia coccinea Mill. belongs to the genus Boerhavia L. in the family Nyctaginaceae, commonly known as the ‘four-o’clock’ family, which contains 34 accepted genera (The Plant List, 2013). According to the Flora of China, the genus Boerhavia contains between 20 and 40 species, four of which occur in China, and is widespread in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016). However, the Plant List (2013) names over 100 accepted species in the genus. The genus is named after Hermann Boerhaave (1668–1738), an eighteenth century Dutch botanist, humanist and physician. The spelling Boerhaavia has been widely used for this genus (Bojer, 1842; Hiruma-Lima et al., 2000), but Linnaeus Latinized Boerhaave's name to Boerhavius, and changed the spelling into Boerhavia, which is the accepted spelling (Spellenberg, 2004).

The taxonomy of the genus is complicated because some species are extremely polymorphic. B. coccinea is a highly variable species, and is a member of the B. diffusa-B. coccinea complex (a cluster of very similar species that are difficult to distinguish). Some consider B. coccinea to be the same species as B. diffusa (Woodson et al., 1961; Wunderlin, 1998) and although they are not listed as synonyms in The Plant List (2013) a number of varieties of B. coccinea are listed as synonyms for B. diffusa and vice versa. Molecular studies would be very useful in order to clarify the true native range of this species, as well as the taxonomy of the B. diffusa-B. coccinea complex.

Boerhavia species are commonly referred to as spiderlings, due to the long, slender, sticky peduncles that resemble a spider's web. The name coccinea means scarlet, so B. coccinea is commonly known as ‘scarlet spiderling’. In Afrikaans, Boerhavia species are known as kleefbossies, referring to the stickiness of the plants, particularly their anthocarps (Struwig and Siebert, 2013).

Description

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Based on descriptions by Wagner et al. (1999), Struwig and Siebert (2013) and the Flora of North America Editorial Committee (2016), B. coccinea is a prostrate to ascending perennial herb, approximately 90 cm in height, leafy in lower half, diffusely paniculate in upper half. Stems are covered with very short fine straight erect hairs, branching opposite near base, upward usually becoming alternative by suppression of one branch of a pair, angle of branching is wide.

Leaves are broadly ovate to suborbicular and very variable in size, up to 2.5 cm long. The leaves have 3 to 5 pairs of prominent nerves, converging toward the base. The upper surface is green, obscurely glandular, the lower surface is paler and glabrous except with some long hairs on the lower part of midrib and veins. The edge of the leaf blade is conspicuously long-ciliate, apex obtuse to subacute, base obtuse to truncate or subcordate. The petioles are 0.5-1(-2) cm long, long-ciliate.

Flowers are subsessile or very short-pedicellate, in few-flowered glomerules. These are arranged in large, very open panicles, branching many times (up to 10) at wide angles, sparsely glandular, distal branches filiform, upper articulations of panicles with small pilose bracts, those subtending glomerules hyaline, lanceolate, acuminate; perianth strongly constricted near middle. In North and South America, the flowers are often bright scarlet to red-violet in colour but can be white or shades of yellow. In Africa, Europe and Asia, pink-flowered plants are frequent. The flowers are campanulate, roughly 2.5 mm long, glabrous and have two stamens that are 1.5-4.5 mm long. Anthocarps are narrowly obconical-clavate, 3-4 mm long, apex abruptly contracted to an obtuse point, 5 ribs that are prominently stipitate glandular, occasionally with a few glands in the wide furrows, the furrows also with many longitudinally arranged raphide bundles. Ovary 0.4-0.6 mm long, glabrous; style 1.3-4.0 mm long, exserted.

Plant Type

Top of page Herbaceous
Perennial
Seed propagated

Distribution

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B. coccinea is a widespread, highly variable species whose native range is uncertain and distribution records are often combined with B. diffusa. Several sources give B. coccinea a native pantropical distribution however, such disjunct native distributions seem unlikely.

The more likely scenario emerging from these data is that the species originated in an area between the southern USA and northern South America and was dispersed from there to other parts of the world, as many reports are probably misidentifications and confusions with other morphologically similar Boerhavia species, especially B. diffusa. Chen and Wu (2007) have B. coccinea originating in tropical America, perhaps the Caribbean Islands, and introduced and naturalized elsewhere, while Struwig and Siebert (2013) also have it occurring as an introduction from the Americas to Africa. Other reports also state that B. coccinea was introduced to Africa (Whitehouse, 1996; Struwig et al., 2011), Australia (Meikle and Hewson, 1984), many Pacific Islands and South-East Asia (GBIF, 2016).

Whatever its native range, B. coccinea is a cosmopolitan species that is now naturalized throughout the tropics (Whitehouse, 1996). It is present in North America, Central America, South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, parts of Asia, Africa, Australia and some of the Pacific islands, including Hawaii (Struwig and Siebert, 2013). Mazzola and Domina (2010) even report that the species is an invasive alien in Sicily (Italy), being very frequently observed along roadsides and on wasteland and sometimes in fields, but no other sources mention the presence of B. coccinea in Europe. According to the Flora of China (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016), there is an unconfirmed report of the species from Hainan.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

BhutanPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016
ChinaPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016
-HainanPresentIntroducedFlora of China Editorial Committee, 2016unconfirmed report
IndiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Andaman and Nicobar IslandsPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016
-SikkimPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016
LaosPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016
MalaysiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016
NepalPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016
OmanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016unlikely native range
PakistanPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016
PhilippinesPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016
TaiwanPresentIntroducedChen and Wu, 2007
ThailandPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016
VietnamPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016

Africa

BotswanaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; Struwig and Siebert, 2013; USDA-ARS, 2016
DjiboutiPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
GambiaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
GhanaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
KenyaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
LiberiaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
MaliPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
MauritiusPresentIntroducedParnell et al., 1989; Whitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
MozambiquePresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; Struwig et al., 2011; USDA-ARS, 2016
NamibiaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; Struwig and Siebert, 2013; USDA-ARS, 2016
NigeriaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
RéunionPresentIntroduced Invasive Whitehouse, 1996; Lavergne, 2006; USDA-ARS, 2016
RwandaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
SenegalPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
Sierra LeonePresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
SomaliaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
South AfricaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; Struwig and Siebert, 2013in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape provinces
SwazilandPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; Struwig and Siebert, 2013; USDA-ARS, 2016
TanzaniaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
UgandaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
ZambiaPresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; USDA-ARS, 2016
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedWhitehouse, 1996; Struwig et al., 2011; USDA-ARS, 2016

North America

MexicoPresentNativeStruwig and Siebert, 2013
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-ArizonaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-CaliforniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-FloridaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced1974 Invasive Stone et al., 1992; Wagner et al., 2015; GBIF, 2016; PIER, 2016on islands of Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, and Green Island in the Kure Atoll
-LouisianaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-MarylandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-NevadaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-New MexicoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-North CarolinaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-South CarolinaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-TexasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
-VirginiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016

Central America and Caribbean

Antigua and BarbudaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
BahamasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
BarbadosPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
BelizePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
Cayman IslandsPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
Costa RicaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
CubaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
DominicaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
Dominican RepublicPresentNativeHolm et al., 1991; USDA-ARS, 2016
El SalvadorPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
GrenadaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
GuadeloupePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
GuatemalaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
HaitiPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
HondurasPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
JamaicaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
MartiniquePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
MontserratPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
NicaraguaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
PanamaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
Puerto RicoPresentNativeHolm et al., 1991; USDA-ARS, 2016
Saint Kitts and NevisPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
Saint LuciaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
United States Virgin IslandsPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016

South America

BoliviaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
BrazilPresentNativeHolm et al., 1991; USDA-ARS, 2016
-Rio de JaneiroPresentNativeGBIF, 2016
-Sao PauloPresentNativeGBIF, 2016
ColombiaPresentNativeHolm et al., 1991; USDA-ARS, 2016
EcuadorPresentNativeGBIF, 2016; USDA-ARS, 2016including the Galapagos Islands
PeruPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016
VenezuelaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2016

Europe

ItalyPresentIntroduced Invasive Mazzola and Domina, 2010on Sicily

Oceania

AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Australian Northern TerritoryPresentIntroducedMeikle and Hewson, 1984; USDA-ARS, 2016
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedMeikle and Hewson, 1984; USDA-ARS, 2016
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedMeikle and Hewson, 1984; USDA-ARS, 2016
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedMeikle and Hewson, 1984; USDA-ARS, 2016
-Western AustraliaPresentIntroducedMeikle and Hewson, 1984; USDA-ARS, 2016
FijiPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016
French PolynesiaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016on Marquesas islands of Nuku Hiva and Ua Huka; and Austral island of Raivavae
GuamPresentIntroducedFosberg et al., 1979; GBIF, 2016; PIER, 2016
New CaledoniaPresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016
NiuePresentIntroducedGBIF, 2016

History of Introduction and Spread

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B. coccinea was accidentally introduced to Hawaii, where the plant was first recorded in 1974 (Stone et al., 1992). It has spread rapidly and is now present on the islands of Kure, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, Kahoolawe and Hawaii (Wagner et al., 2015), where it is common on the coast or slightly inland, in disturbed areas such as roadsides (Wagner et al., 1999).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Hawaii 1974 Hitchhiker (pathway cause) Yes No Stone et al. (1992) Accidental introduction

Risk of Introduction

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B. coccinea is not registered as a quarantine pest nor is it on any risk list. 

Habitat

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B. coccinea is a pantropical species that is associated with well-drained, stony or sandy soil. It is found in a wide range of habitats, from riverbanks, hills, mountains and ridges, to disturbed sites (often along roadsides), waste places, upper beaches and gravelly outwash fans. Other habitats include tropical scrub, arid grasslands, desert scrub, pine-juniper woodlands and dry river beds. B. coccinea tolerates shade to full sun, at altitudes of up to 2000 m (Struwig and Siebert, 2013; PROTA, 2015; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016; Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2016).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Natural
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Natural
Rail / roadsides Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Principal habitat Natural
Scrub / shrublands Principal habitat Natural
Arid regions Principal habitat Natural
Littoral
Coastal areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Coastal areas Principal habitat Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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B. coccinea occurs as a serious weed in upland crops (including upland rice, Oryza sativa) in Gambia (Terry, 1981).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Oryza sativa (rice)PoaceaeMain

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

The chromosome number of B. coccinea is 2n = 52 (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2016).

Reproductive Biology

Self-pollination is believed to be the usual method of reproduction for B. coccinea. This occurs either via insect pollination or as the stamens make contact with the stigma as the flowers close. Even in crowded populations there is no evidence of wind pollination (Spellenberg, 2000). B. coccinea propagates by seed.

Physiology and Phenology

Flowering and fruiting in B. coccinea occur throughout the year in North America (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2016), and during the spring, summer and early autumn (September to April) in South Africa (Struwig and Siebert, 2013).

Longevity

As a perennial, B. coccinea can live for more than 10 years (Jurado et al., 1991).

Associations

In southern California, USA, where B. coccinea is considered native, it is found associated with creosote bush scrub, valley grassland and southern oak woodland communities (Calflora, 2016). In Taiwan B. coccinea associates with other weedy plants commonly found in disturbed areas, such as Bidens pilosa, Oxalis corniculata, Desmodium triflorum, Alysicarpus vaginalis and Cacalia borneensis [Vernonia cinerea var. cinerea] (Chen and Wu, 2005). The exotic weed Tithonia diversifolia was found to be closely associated with B. coccinea in the southwest of Nigeria (Chukwuka et al., 2007).

Environmental Requirements

B. coccinea is a pantropical species with a broad geographical distribution covering both tropical and dry climates. The plant is found at a range of altitudes from sea level up to 2000 m. It is associated with well-drained stony or sandy (88%) soil that contains higher levels of potassium and iron than recorded for most other species in the genus (Struwig and Siebert, 2013). According to Calflora (2016), B. coccinea grows on soils with a pH of 6.4 to 8.2, on soils that are very slightly saline, and tolerates very low concentrations of calcium carbonate (2%). The plant tolerates arid environments with an annual rainfall between 127 and 533 mm. It can grow in places where there is a wet season of 0-4 months, or a warm season that lasts 3-6 months. The lowest temperature it tolerates in winter is 0ºC. In summer the plant tolerates temperatures from 12 to 40ºC.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Tolerated Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer 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 Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Preferred < 430mm annual precipitation
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)
Dw - Continental climate with dry winter Tolerated Continental climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
35 35

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 12 40

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration36number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall2002000mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light

Special soil tolerances

  • saline

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Asphondylia boerhaaviae Herbivore Inflorescence to genus Freeman and Geoghagen, 1989
Cuscuta umbellata var. reflexa Parasite Whole plant not specific Costea and Stefanovic, 2010
Megalorrhipida defectalis Herbivore Fruits/pods/Inflorescence not specific Matthews et al., 1990

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Asphondylia boerhaaviae is a gall midge that produces galls on B. coccinea and B. diffusa. It deposits a single egg in individual flower buds. B. diffusa is the main food plant and far fewer galls are found in B. coccinea (Freeman and Geoghagen, 1989). Megalorrhipida defectalis is a species of moth of the Pterophoridae family that has a pantropical distribution. The larvae, which have been recorded on a wide range of plants, including B. coccinea, feed on flower buds and bore into the fruits (Matthews et al., 1990).

Cuscuta umbellata var. reflexa is a locally common parasite on B. coccinea in Mexico (Costea and Stefanovic, 2010).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Vector Transmission (Biotic)

B. coccinea has adhesive seeds that stick to clothing and fur, thus aiding dispersal (Jurado et al., 1991).

Accidental Introduction

Although B. coccinea was accidentally introduced to Hawaii (Stone et al., 1992), the means of introduction is not known.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Hitchhikersticky seeds Yes Yes Jurado et al., 1991
Medicinal useUsed in traditional medicine in Africa, Mexico, South America and India. Yes Filipov, 1994; Osuna et al., 2005; Ramabhimaiah et al., 1984; Struwig and Siebert, 2013

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Clothing, footwear and possessionssticky seeds attach to clothing Yes Jurado et al., 1991
Livestocksticky seeds attach to animals Yes Jurado et al., 1991

Impact Summary

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

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

The Global Compendium of Weeds (2016) describes B. coccinea as an agricultural and environmental weed, indicating that the species invades agricultural lands as well as native ecosystems. As B. coccinea is naturalized in many places, this means that the species has self-sustaining and spreading populations, but does not necessarily have an impact on the environment. The capacity to naturalize in foreign environments, however, is a good indicator of weed potential.

Impact on Biodiversity

On Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands, B. coccinea is one of several alien invasive plant species threatening the federally listed endangered annual herb Spermolepis hawaiiensis, a member of the Apiaceae and the only species of the genus native to Hawaii. In 1999, S. hawaiiensis was known from only 12 populations on Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, West Maui and Hawaii, comprising 2000-6000 individual plants. The species is particularly endangered on Kauai where it exists within nine valleys, with a total of about 1750 individuals; only two of the nine populations have more than 500 plants. The primary threats to S. hawaiiensis on Kauai are habitat degradation and competition from invasive introduced plants (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Spermolepis hawaiiensis (Hawaii scaleseed)USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaiiCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010

Social Impact

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In coastal areas and beach parks of Hawaii, B. coccinea is considered as a nuisance to people because of its sticky fruits (Motooka et al., 2003).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Tolerant of shade
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources

Uses

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Social Benefit

In Africa (Cameroon, Ethiopia, Namibia, Nigeria and Tanzania), the leaves and roots of B. coccinea are widely used in traditional medicine. The plant is used to treat liver, loin, urinary and gastroenteric diseases, convulsions, prolapsed uterus, asthma, scabies, skin rashes, smallpox, oral candidiasis, apthous ulcers, toothache and pneumonia (Messana et al., 1986; von Koenen, 1996; Neuwinger, 2000; Tapia-Pérez et al., 2003; Maregesi et al., 2007; Jiofack et al., 2009). The Kara and Kwego people in the lower Omo River Valley in Ethiopia use the leaves of the plant to prepare a powder that is used on external injuries and wounds (Teklehaymanot and Giday, 2010). The roots specifically are used to treat jaundice, heart and kidney diseases and oedema (Edeoga and Ikem, 2002).

In Mexico and South America (Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay), B. coccinea is also used in traditional medicine to treat diarrhoea, dysentery, headaches, fever (Osuna et al., 2005), liver disease and syphilis, and as a diuretic (Filipov, 1994; Basualdo et al., 1995; Agra et al., 2007). Tapia-Pérez et al. (2003) have reported that B. coccinea has important antiprotozoal activity. Pharmacological studies have shown that extracts of the root of B. coccinea stimulate smooth muscle contraction (Ramabhimaiah et al., 1984).

B. coccinea is eaten as a vegetable in Namibia and Nigeria, where it is also used as fodder for animals (von Koenen, 1996; Edeoga and Ikem, 2002).

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed

Human food and beverage

  • Vegetable

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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B. coccinea can be easily confused with B. diffusa. Both species have a similar habit and foliage, with sticky fruits. However, the flowers of B. diffusa are in less dense clusters, with 2-4 per umbel (B. coccinea can have 3-12 per umbel). The inflorescence of B. coccinea is more shortly branched, more leafy and less diffuse (Hutchinson and Dalziel, 1954). The differences between the anthocarps of each species are described by Struwig and Siebert (2013). B. coccinea can also be distinguished from B. diffusa based on pollen characters: B. coccinea is characterized by tricolpate pollen grains while B. diffusa has alcopate pollen grains (Mbagwu et al., 2009).

B. coccinea can also be confused with B. repens. The primary difference between the two is in their flowers. B. coccinea has terminal paniculate inflorescences and obconical anthocarps, while B. repens is characterized by axillary pedunculate inflorescences and ellipsoid anthocarps (Chen and Wu, 2007).

Prevention and Control

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Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures

According to the HerbiGuide (2016), B. coccinea and other species in the genus can be controlled by soil solarization at temperatures of 58ºC (wet) or 69ºC (dry) to a depth of 5 cm to reduce seed banks. Planting and encouraging leguminous species was also considered a possible means of control, mainly due to legume allelopathy.
 

Chemical Control

According to Motooka et al. (2003), foliar application of a diluted triclopyr amine product provides good control. Of other herbicides tested against Boerhavia, the HerbiGuide (2016) indicates that pre-emergence application of an oryzalin-containing mixture has given good control. Control has also been obtained with pre-emergence applications of fluchloralin and oxyfluorfen. Dicamba applied 20 days after emergence also provides control, and isoproturon is also thought to be effective.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Molecular studies would be very useful in order to clarify the true native range of this species, as well as the taxonomy of the B. diffusa-B. coccinea complex.

References

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Contributors

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23/02/2016 Original text by:

Ymkje van de Witte, Consultant, Netherlands.

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