Boerhavia diffusa (red spiderling)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Boerhavia diffusa L.
Preferred Common Name
- red spiderling
Other Scientific Names
- Axia cochinchinensis Lour.
- Boerhavia adscendens Willd.
- Boerhavia caespitosa Ridl.
- Boerhavia ciliatobracteata Heimerl
- Boerhavia coccinea var. leiocarpa (Heimerl) Standl.
- Boerhavia coccinea var. paniculata Moscoso
- Boerhavia friesii Heimerl
- Boerhavia paniculata Rich.
- Boerhavia paniculata f. esetosa Heimerl
- Boerhavia paniculata var. guaranitica Heimerl
- Boerhavia paniculata var. leiocarpa (Heimerl) Heimerl
- Boerhavia procumbens Banks ex Roxb
- Boerhavia repanda Wall.
- Boerhavia repens var. diffusa (L.) Hook. f.
International Common Names
- English: hogweed; pigweed; spreading hogweed
- Spanish: escorian morado (Guatemala); hierba de cabro (Guatemala); hierba de puerco; mata pavo (Cuba); moradilla (Guatemala); pegajera (Bolivia); pega-pollo (Dominican Republic); raíz china (Bolivia); rodilla de pollo (Colombia); tripa de pollo (Colombia)
- French: boerhaavia à fleurs rouges
- Arabic: handakuki; sabaka
- Chinese: huang xi xin
- Portuguese: agarra-pinto; amarra-pinto; celidônia
Local Common Names
- Persian Gulf States: devasapat
- Brazil: erva-tostao; pega-pinto
- Caribbean: ipeca
- Dominican Republic: pega pollo cimarron; toston; yerba de puerco
- Haiti: liane manger cochon; manger cochon
- India: bashkhira; punarnava; sant
- Sri Lanka: chattaranai; kancharanai; mukurattai
- BOEDI (Boerhavia diffusa)
- BOERE (Boerhavia repanda)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
B. diffusa is a fast-growing weed common in ruderal areas, agricultural land, and pastures. It has been listed as invasive in Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, Hawaii, Japan and Cambodia where it is invading principally coastal and ruderal areas (Wagner et al., 1999; Mito and Uesugi, 2004; Zuloaga et al., 2008; PIER, 2015). The sticky fruits of the plant facilitate dispersal.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Caryophyllales
- Family: Nyctaginaceae
- Genus: Boerhavia
- Species: Boerhavia diffusa
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Boerhavia diffusa belongs to the Tribe Nyctagineae of the Nyctagineaceae family (Stevens, 2015). Mukherjee (1984) has revised Indian Nyctaginaceae members. Bramadhayalaselvam (1991) made revisionary studies on the South Indian species of Nyctaginaceae. The spelling Boerhaavia has been widely used for this genus, but most recent texts use Boerhavia.
Taxonomy of the genus is complex and interpreted in various ways. Some authors treat B. repens L. and B. diffusa L. as synonyms. Singh (1988) and Stemmerik (1964) conclude that there is too much variation to distinguish these two (and B. procumbens) and all three are treated as conspecific in Indian floras. B. diffusa is certainly a highly variable plant and Theodore Cooke (1958) refers to it as a 'protean' plant, changing its appearance according to soil and climate. Others (e.g. Hutchinson and Dalziel, 1954) distinguish B. repens as a separate species with more prostrate stems, smaller flowers and smaller leaves than B. diffusa (= B. repens L. var. diffusa (L.) Hook. f.). Matters are also confused because the name B. diffusa has been misapplied by some authors to the closely related B. coccinea Mill. which is also a very widely distributed weed. In Holm et al. (1979)B. coccinea is treated as a synonym of B. diffusa. See Similarities to Other Species for means of separating these two species.
DescriptionTop of page
The genus Boerhavia can be recognised by its erect or diffused herbaceous habit, funnel-shaped, plicate limb of the perianth and paniculate inflorescence.
Prostrate or ascending herb, to 50 cm long, many-branched from a taproot; twigs cylindrical, glabrous. Leaves in unequal pairs; blades 1.2-5.5 × 1.3-4 cm, ovate to wide ovate, chartaceous, sparsely pilose, especially on veins, lower side glaucous, the apex rounded to acute, shortly apiculate, the base rounded, truncate to nearly cordate, the margins wavy, ciliate; petioles pilose, 0.5-3 cm long. Flowers nearly sessile, 2-4(-7) in terminal, subcapitate clusters on axillary racemes or terminal panicles, 10-30 cm long; the axes glabrous; bracts and bracteoles lanceolate. Calyx base 0.5-1.5 mm, puberulent, the limb funnel-shaped, red or violet, 0.6-1 mm long; stamens usually 2, slightly exserted. Anthocarp sessile, green, glandular pubescent, sticky, short club-shaped, 2-2.5 mm long, 5-ribbed.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
B. diffusa is pantropical in distribution. It is recorded in floras of India, Malaysia and West Pakistan, and in many of the Indian regional floras such as Madras (Gamble, 1957), Tamil Nadu Carnatic (Matthew, 1983), Goa, Diu, Daman and Nagarhaveli (Rolla Seshagiri Rao, 1986), Tamil Nadu (Henry et al., 1987), Cannanore (Ramachandran and Nair, 1988) and Eastern Karnataka (Singh, 1988). B. diffusa has also been recorded in much of Africa, tropical and temperate Asia, southern North America, Central America, the West Indies, and South America (see distribution table for details; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015; PIER, 2015; PROTA, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015). Its native range is unclear, and it is widely naturalized (USDA-ARS, 2015).
Owing to the possible confusion with B. coccinea, it is possible that some of the records included here are more correctly attributed to the latter.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 25 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Côte d'Ivoire||Present, Widespread|
|India||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Andhra Pradesh||Present, Widespread|
|-Tamil Nadu||Present, Widespread|
|Japan||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba|
|British Virgin Islands||Present||Native||Tortola, Virgin Gorda|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Present||Native|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present||Native||St Thomas, St Croix, St John|
|Federated States of Micronesia||Present|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||Native|
|-Rio Grande do Norte||Present|
HabitatTop of page
B. diffusa is a tropical species growing in various soil types in waste places, along roadsides, near habitations, in and along cultivated fields and in open cleared patches in forests. The weed is also noted in dry waste lands, cultivated land and pasture. In China it is found in open places near sea, and in dry and warm river valleys, at 100-1900 m (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Natural|
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Arachis hypogaea (groundnut)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Brassica juncea var. juncea (Indian mustard)||Brassicaceae||Main|
|Brassica nigra (black mustard)||Brassicaceae||Main|
|Manihot esculenta (cassava)||Euphorbiaceae||Main|
|Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)||Solanaceae||Main|
|Oryza sativa (rice)||Poaceae||Main|
|Pennisetum glaucum (pearl millet)||Poaceae||Main|
|Phoenix dactylifera (date-palm)||Arecaceae||Main|
|Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)||Poaceae||Main|
|Vigna unguiculata (cowpea)||Fabaceae||Main|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Chromosome number n = 26 and 2n = 52 (Virendra Kumar and Subramaniam, 1986).
According to Nadkarni (1976), there are two types of B. diffusa, one with white flowers and the other with pink flowers; the former is used in medicine. The sizes of the leaf, petiole and fruit show a high degree of variation from region to region, probably due to ecological factors (Nadkarni, 1976).
B. diffusa propagates by root stocks and by seed, although seeds only account for 21% of reproduction. It flowers and fruits throughout the year (Mathur and Bandari, 1983). The first flowers may appear 4 weeks after germination of the seeds (Muzila, 2006).
B. diffusa grows as a weed in ruderal areas, preferring sunny sites, sandy soils and a slightly seasonal climate, from sea-level up to 1900 m altitude. It is also a weed in cultivated land and grazing pasture. It prefers soils with pH ranging from 6.6 to 7.8 (Muzila, 2006).
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Punarnavomyia boerhaaviaefoliae||Parasite||Growing point/Leaves|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Several host-specific diseases have been identified in India on B. diffusa: (1) Passalora diffusa causing chlorotic leaf spots, and (2) Colletotrichum boerhaviae causing brown necrotic spots. Also in India, B. diffusa is recorded as a host for the virus causing aubergine mosaic disease (EMV), and in Costa Rica as a host of zucchini yellow mosaic potyvirus (ZYMV). In Cameroon B. diffusa is an alternative host for the cotton aphid (Aphis gossypii), and in Nigeria caterpillars of Aegocera rectilinea [Aegoceropsis rectilinea] and Hippotion celerio were found feeding on B. diffusa (Muzila, 2006). B. diffusa is also reported as an alternate host for rice nematode (Kumar, 1990). Mani (1973) reported a cecidomyiid insect natural enemy but could not specify the species.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
The small fruit of B. diffusa are very sticky and grow close to the ground. They can therefore attach to human clothing or to animals and birds, enabling wide dispersal. Because this species grows as a weed, its seeds can also be dispersed accidentally as a contaminant (Wagner et al., 1999; Muzila, 2006; PIER, 2015).
Pathway CausesTop of page
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Economic/livelihood||Positive and negative|
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
Economic ImpactTop of page
B. diffusa is reported as one of the predominant weeds of cassava in Venezuela (Quiñones and Moreno, 1995). It is also recorded associated with Xylella fastidiosa in grape in Venezuela (Hernández-Garboza and Ochoa-Corona, 1994). It is the most common principal weed of date palm orchards in India (Josan et al., 1993) and is one of the most problematic weeds in mustard in India (Rajput et al., 1993), where it is also recorded as a weed in tobacco, pearl millet and groundnut (Singh and Prasad, 1987; Murthy et al., 1991; Singh and Prasad, 1991; Kennedy et al., 1992). In Nigeria it is also recorded as a main weed in upland rice (Kehinde and Fagade, 1986). In Hawaii this species is a common weed spreading rapidly principally in coastal areas, disturbed places, and disturbed forests (Wagner et al., 1999).
B. diffusa indirectly limits crop production by serving as an alternative host to crop pests; the weed provides food, shelter and reproductive sites for insects, nematodes and pathogens (Kumar, 1990). B. diffusa is recorded as an alternative host for Aproaerema modicella (groundnut leaf miner) (Kennedy et al., 1992). Yield losses attributed to these factors are difficult to determine.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Pioneering in disturbed areas
- Highly mobile locally
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Long lived
- Fast growing
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of successional patterns
- Monoculture formation
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - smothering
- Pest and disease transmission
- Rapid growth
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
UsesTop of page
The whole plant or its specific parts (leaves, stem, and roots) have a long history of use by indigenous and tribal people in India. The leaves of B. diffusa are eaten as a pot-herb and the root is employed in medicine to cure diarrhoea, dysentery and cholera (Kirtikar and Basu, 1975). Aqueous extracts of B. diffusa possess strong antiviral activity (Nagarajan et al., 1990). The roots contain a quinolone alkaloid which is the main medicinally active compound. The whole plant of B. diffusa is a very useful source of the drug punarnava, which is documented in Indian Pharmacopoeia as a diuretic.
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Host of pest
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
B. diffusa has a habit similar to Boerehavia repens, but B. repens differs by its flowers less than 1 mm across and leaves mostly less than 2.5 cm long. B. erecta is similar in habit but lacks the sticky fruits of B. diffusa. Confusion is most likely with B. coccinea which also has sticky fruits, but its flowers are in denser clusters, 4-12 per umbel (versus 2-4 in B. diffusa), paler (pink or mauve versus rich magenta or crimson in B. diffusa) and the inflorescence is more shortly branched, more leafy and less diffuse (Hutchinson and Dalziel, 1954).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
The choice of control method depends upon the value of the crop and the severity of the weed.
Methods that are commonly used to control perennial herbs and that can be used for B. diffusa include preparation of a clean seed bed, crop rotation, tillage methods and physical methods (hand weeding and spade digging).
Seedlings are relatively susceptible to 2,4-D and some control of established plants can also be expected (Ivens, 1967). There is little other direct information on susceptibility of B. diffusa to herbicides, but those which have been noted to give good control of mixed weed populations, including B. diffusa, include fluchloralin and oxyfluorfen in tobacco (Murthy et al., 1991) and atrazine in fodder maize (Singh and Prasad, 1988).
Hand weeding of B. diffusa resulted in a yield increase compared to the control in mustard (Rajput et al., 1993).
In chewing tobacco, yield without weed control yield was 1.39 t/ha and after controlling the weeds, including B. diffusa, by hand weeding and spade digging or by herbicides the yield was 2.83-2.99 t/ha (Murthy et al., 1991).
Yields were considerably improved by hand weeding 30 days after sowing in fodder maize (Singh and Prasad, 1988).
ReferencesTop of page
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06/03/15 Updated by:
Julissa Rojas-Sandoval, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA
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