History in the United States
Asiatic colubrina is believed to have been carried to Jamaica in the 1850s by East Asian immigrants, probably on account of its traditional uses (food, medicine, fish poison, and soap substitute). From there, it spread on its own to other Caribbean islands, Mexico (Yucatan Peninsula), and Florida. The earliest known record of its occurrence in Florida is 1937 where it was collected in the Florida Keys. The first reports of it on the mainland are specimens collected in Everglades National Park in the early 1950s.
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Global Range: C. asiatica is native to tropical Asia, but is now pantropical in distribution and grows in coastal sites adjacent to the ocean (Johnston 1971). The species is regarded as native in Hawaii (J. Randall, pers. comm. 1992). C. asiatica is a relatively recent introduction to the Western Hemisphere, being first collected in Jamaica in about 1860 (Johnston 1971). Langeland (1990) reported that it was introduced into the Caribbean Islands from Asia where it escaped from cultivation.
The species was detected in Florida at Big Pine Key in the early 1950's (Dickson et al. 1953). It was not long before it spread as far north as Martin County (Alexander and Crook 1974, Austin 1978, Olmstead et al. 1981).
India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia and South Africa
State - Kerala, District/s: Malappuram"
Distribution in the United States
Asiatic colubrina only occurs along the eastern and western coastlines of central and southern Florida (more or less frost-free), including the Florida Keys. As it is widespread throughout the Caribbean Basin, it is also likely to occur in the U.S. possessions of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Asiatic colubrina, also called latherleaf, because of its ability to produce a lather in water, is a shrubby member of the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). It is a low shrub with long, climbing or drooping branches that can reach 20 feet long or more. The leaves are 1½ to 5½ inches long, egg-shaped, and easily recognized by their shiny, green upper surfaces and toothed edges. They are attached to stems by slender stalks and are arranged alternately along the branches. Flowering, which usually occurs in July, produces clusters of small, greenish-white flowers at the junctures of leaf and stem. The fruits are small capsules, measuring less than ½ inch across, which reach maturity as early as September. At first green and fleshy, the capsules become dark brown with age. Each fruit contains three tiny grayish seeds.
Asiatic colubrina should not be confused with U.S. native species of the genus (Colubrina) that are all trees with erect branches and hairy leaves. Other members of the buckthorn famiy include such plants as the jujube, California lilac, and buckthorn.
C. asiatica (Ramnaceae) is characterized by its rambling growth over other vegetation; glossy, dark green, thin leaves; and small axillary clusters of minute greenish flowers and fruit (Godfrey and Wooten 1981, Langeland 1990). A line drawing is in Langeland (1990) and a color photo in Scurlock (1987).
Catalog Number: US 3189006
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): B. Maguire, J.J. Wurdack & C. K. Maguire
Year Collected: 1957
Locality: Cerro de La Neblina, Rio Yatua, Canon Grande SSW of Cumbre camp., Amazonas, Venezuela, South America
Elevation (m): 1050 to 1150
Comments: Alexander and Crook (1974) noted 20 years ago that C. asiatica could cause problems by overgrowing native vegetation near the seacoast. A report from the South Florida Research Center (Olmstead et al. 1981) nine years later noted that C. asiatica had been known to "locally engulf stands of buttonwood and has been regarded as a possible severe threat to native vegetation".
In Florida, it is naturalized in relatively frost-free coastal areas of the southern peninsula and the Florida Keys (Godfrey and Wooten 1981). The current northern boundary of the species is Sewell Point, Martin Co. (R. Roberts, pers. comm. 1992). In the very recent Exotic Woody Plant Control guide edited by Langeland (1990), C. asiatica is listed as one of the most aggressive exotic plants in Florida along with Casuarina spp., Schinus terebinthefolius and Melaleuca quinquenervia.
Natural communities where C. asiatica is found include beach dune (Long and Lakela 1976, Wunderlin 1982), coastal strand (Norma Jeanne Byrd pers. comm. 1992),maritime hammock (Wunderlin 1982, Myers and Ewel 1990), tidal marsh (Jim Duquesnel pers. comm. 1992), and tidal mangrove swamp (Godfrey and Wooten 1981, Olmstead et al. 1981, Byrd, 1992). It is most often found growing in the uplands - submerged lands interface (Langeland 1990) or between beach dune and maritime hammock (Duquesnel 1992). Duquesnel (1992) stated that, unlike some exotic pest plant species, C. asiatica can become established and grow in undisturbed sites of natural vegetation.
Habitat in the United States
Asiatic colubrina is an upland plant that inhabits only the higher portions of coastal areas. It can invade both disturbed and undisturbed forest sites. Coastal forests (or hammocks) comprised of tropical hardwoods and buttonwoods are especially vulnerable as they occur on such flood-free sites, created from the deposition of soils left by storms and tidal influences. Natural ridges or berms that have formed within inundated mangrove forests can also support Asiatic colubrina. It is also frequently found along elevated road shoulders in coastal areas, from which it can spread into adjacent natural areas.
Depth range (m): 1 - 1
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.
Habitat & Distribution
Colubrina asiatica has a rapid growth rate once the foliage reaches direct sunlight. Byrd (1992) and Duquesnel (1992) reported plants increasing 10 m or more in length in one year. Its climbing growth habit allows it to grow over the vegetative canopy thereby often effectively shading out the native flora; the resulting dense walls of C. asiatica stems can be virtually impenetrable (Langeland 1990). Snyder et al. (1990) wrote that this woody vine smothers hammocks in coastal areas. Byrd, Duquesnel and J.B. Miller (pers. comm. 1992) all reported that mature plants dominate native vegetation with stems as large as 10 cm diameter at the ground and 15+ m in length. Duquesnel added that C. asiatica has been seen smothering mature Schinus terebinthifolius in some locations.
Bob Doren (pers. comm. 1992) called latherleaf a seriously invasive exotic as advantitious roots develop wherever the stem contacts the ground. Miller (1992) stated that the stems may grow upwards (7 m or more) to the top of the canopy, fall back to the ground where they reroot and then grow upwards again. Duquesnel (1992) noted that the roots resprout following disturbance to the stems.
Life History and Behavior
Long and Lakela (1976) and Wunderlin (1982) stated that C. asiatica flowers and fruits all year. The seeds are highly dispersable via flotation in ocean currents and may remain viable after floating in saltwater for many months (Guppy 1906, Carlquist 1966). Severe spring and storm tides can push the seed far inland (Langeland 1990). An extreme case reported by Duquesnel (1992) was a plant growing approximately 300 m from water in a coastal hammock at John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo. Because this site is higher than storm tides normally reach, some other dispersal agent, such as a bird, may have distributed this plant. Seed germination does not seem to occur on exposed rock, but appears to require loose soil (Duquesnel 1992). Fillyaw (1986), Byrd (1992), and Duquesnel (1992), reported germination and growth rate of seedlings increases with the removal of the shading canopy. Duquesnel (1992) stated that seedlings reach sexual maturity in about 1 year; even young plants produce many seeds, so open areas around plant are rapidly colonized. Solitary individuals are found only under two conditions: if they are too young to fruit or growing in dense vegetation.
Biology and Spread
Asiatic colubrina reproduces sexually and vegetatively. It has been reported that plants can flower and fruit within the first year of growth. Seeds are believed to retain their viability in the soil for at least several (3-5) years. Little is known about seed germination except that it requires loose soil and does not normally occur on exposed rock.
Asiatic colubrina exhibits tremendous vegetative regeneration, including adventitious rooting from branches coming in contact with the soil and vigorous resprouting from cut or injured stems. Plants require considerable light and growth rates of seedlings increase with the removal of the shading canopy. Seedlings normally occur near larger, reproductively mature plants, suggesting that long-distance dispersal is uncommon. Asiatic colubrinas buoyant and salt-tolerant seeds and fruits are dispersed by ocean currents. Because the seeds resemble small pebbles, it has been suggested that they may be used as crop stones by seed-eating birds, which may disperse them long distances.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Colubrina asiatica
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Colubrina asiatica
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Global Short Term Trend: Increase of 10 to >25%
Comments: Not applicable. Sensitivity to cold temperatures may limit the northern expansion of this pest species. Miller (1992) stated that it has been found as far north as St. Lucie County.
Management Requirements: This element requires active management to prevent its spread and the resulting domination of natural communities.
Manual removal can be done on young plants in the beach dune or coastal strand where they are easily detected (Byrd, 1992). Removal by machinery is usually not practical due to latherleaf's habit of growing in and over desirable native species (Langeland 1990). At the Blowing Rocks Preserve, machinery removal was effective in an area where no native understory existed and where latherleaf and Australian pine removal could be coordinated (N.J. Byrd, pers. comm. 1992). Herbicide control is very labor intensive and difficult due to latherleaf's rambling habit and difficulty in identifying the main trunk (Langeland 1990). Herbicide on a stem will kill it only to where it is rerooted by ground layering (Miller 1992). Guidelines for a herbicide control program in Langeland (1990) recommend basal bark applications of Garlon 4 diluted to 2% concentration with diesel fuel. The herbicide is applied directly to the bark around the circumference of each vine up to 40 cm above the ground. Hand-held equipment or backpack sprayers are ususally used.
Duquesnel (1992) recommended different herbicide treatments depending on the number of latherleaf plants. His general guidelines were: less than 20 - cut stump, more than 20 - basal bark, more than 100 - foliar, as C. asiatica would cover all other vegetation. The cut stump treatment consisted of one individual cutting the vines off near the ground with a machete (or loppers in areas of dense vegetation), followed by another individual spraying herbicide on the entire exposed cambium layer. He recommended using up to a 50% concentration of Garlon 3A diluted in water - the sooner the Garlon was applied after cutting, the more effective the results and the less concentrated a solution necessary. Duquesnel (1992) used a 6% Garlon 4 solution in diesel fuel for basal bark treatment as described in Langeland (1990). The foliar spray application was of Garlon 3A diluted to a 6% solution in water with the addition of a surfactant to aid in sticking. The foliar spray technique is appropriate only where damage to non-target vegetation is not a concern. Areas may require re-treatment every 3-4 months to prevent regeneration. Initial treatment should be applied around the perimeter of a dense stand to prevent continued expansion on the far side of a treated population.
Both Duquesnel (1992) and Miller (1992) added that marker dyes are very useful for keeping track of the treated vegetation. Details on application methods (including color photographs) are given in Langeland (1990).
Byrd (1992) related a situation at TNC's Blowing Rocks Preserve where C. asiatica was growing in the shade of large Casuarina equisetifolia. Once these trees were removed from the site, C. asiatica flourished in the full sun. Byrd now recommends eradicating latherleaf prior to any canopy removal. Duquesnel (1992) cautioned against inadvertantly spreading C. asiatica seed by hauling away cut branches. The seed pods easily shatter when dry and seeds can be disseminated along roadsides.
Management Programs: Doren (1992) stated that no active management is currently being done at Everglades National Park. DNR is managing against C. asiatica spread in the Florida State Park system. Key contacts are Jim Duquesnel and J.B. Miller. TNC's Blowing Rocks Preserve is also working to eradicate C. asiatica (contact Norma Jeanne Byrd).
Monitoring Programs: Everglades National Park is currently monitoring the spread of C. asiatica and has a map of its range available (contact Bob Doren). DNR is monitoring in the Florida State Park system. Key contacts are Jim Duquesnel and J.B. Miller. Jeff Weber, DNR biologist (pers. comm. 1992) relates that C. asiatica is not yet found in state parks along the Gulf of Mexico. The Nature Conservancy is currently monitoring distribution of C. asiatica at the Blowing Rocks Preserve (contact Norma Jeanne Byrd). Infestations of latherleaf in Biscayne National Park are under observation (C. Lippincott, pers. comm. 1992).
Management Research Programs: Karen Brown (pers. comm. March, 1992) at the Center for Aquatic Plants, IFAS, searched the Aquatic Plant Information Retrieval System data base for C. asiatica and found only Langeland (1990) as a published reference. None of the above identified research needs are being worked on at this time.
Management Research Needs: Biological control of C. asiatica needs to be investigated. Apparently no research is currently underway or planned (Dan Austin, pers. comm. 1992, Langeland 1990). However, because other species within the genus and family are native in Florida, biocontrol efforts should be approached cautiously.
Factors affecting the susceptibility of C. asiatica to herbicides need study. These include identification of the best time of year and stage of plant development to apply and the frequency of application necessary to obtain optimal results. The exact times of flowering and fruiting needs to be determined: no information exists on whether latherleaf reproduces seasonally or all year round. Identification of seed dispersers other that water should be conducted. Research might also identify allelopathic properties of C. asiatica that suppress the growth of other plants.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Uses: MEDICINE/DRUG, INDUSTRIAL/CHEMICAL USE/PRODUCT, Soap/Solvent
Stewardship Overview: C. asiatica asiatica is an aggressive exotic invader of native coastal vegetation in South Florida, which has invaded The Nature Conservancy's Blowing Rocks Preserve and other natural areas. Its seeds are constantly being dispersed at a rapid rate by ocean currents. Other seed vectors may also exist. Plants grow rapidly in full sun; they can cover and even kill native flora. Current practices of herbicide and manual control of C. asiatica are very labor intensive and thus expensive. Research is needed on improving control methods of this noxious pest species.
Ecological Threat in the United States
Asiatic colubrina produces a thick mat of tangled stems that can be several feet thick, impacting the underlying vegetation by growing on it or shading it out. The occurrence of Asiatic colubrina in Floridas coastal tropical hardwood forests is of special concern due to the uniqueness of this habitat and the rarity of some of its constituent plant species, including a number of Florida State-listed threatened and endangered species such as West Indian mahogany, Florida thatch palm, wild cinnamon, manchineel, prickly-pear and dildo cacti, and a number of bromeliads and orchids. Sites infested by colubrina experience a great reduction in biological diversity as very few plants (including seedlings of Asiatic colubrina itself) can persist under these conditions. Impacts to natural areas include alterations of community composition and structure, diminishment of natural habitats for native wildlife, disruption of species relationships and interactions, and interference with ecological and geological processes such as water and nutrient cycling.
Colubrina asiatica is a shrub in the family Rhamnaceae that is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Old World, from eastern Africa to India, southeast Asia, tropical Australia, and the Pacific Islands. Common names include latherleaf, Asian nakedwood and Asian snakewood.
C. asiatica has a vine-like growth habit, sending out multiple stems that can reach 9 m (30 ft) in length. The branches have simple, alternate, glossy, ovate and accuminate leaves, 3.7–13.7 cm (1.5–5.4 in) long, with several prominent veins. Leaf margins are wavy or finely serrated (toothed). Flowers are small, greenish and bloom in clusters in leaf axils. Blooming can occur year-round. Fruit are 1.3 cm (0.51 in) berry-like capsules with small, gray seeds. Seeds float and are tolerant to salt water, which allows the species to spread across oceans.
The plants grow in full to partial sun on upland sites.
As an invasive species
In Florida in the United States, Colubrina asiatica is an invasive species, capable of displacing native plants and altering the ecosystem. It is listed as a Type 1 exotic invader by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. It has been found in the southern part of the Florida peninsula, including in Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier, Lee and Martin counties, and in the Florida Keys (Monroe County). It was first collected in Florida in 1937.
- "Colubrina asiatica (L.) Brongn.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2009-08-03. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- Plant Conservation Alliance Least Wanted list http://www.nps.gov/pnlats/alien/fact/coas1.htm Retrieved 2010-07-25
- Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=348#classification Retrieved 2010-07-25
- Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants, http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=348 Retrieved 2010-07-25.
- Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, http://www.eddmaps.org/florida/species/subject.cfm?sub=5358. Retrieved 2010-07-25.
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