adaptive-background

Parthenium

Preferred Scientific Name: Parthenium hysterophorus

Parthenium is native to South America. It was accidentally introduced to several countries and has become a severe threat in Australia, Asia and Africa. It can grow almost anywhere and spreads rapidly. 

Parthenium
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Why is it a problem?

Parthenium can almost grow anywhere and spreads extremely rapidly, displacing valuable forage species. It is toxic to livestock and can have detrimental impacts on human health, causing respiratory problems and dermatitis. If unmanaged, it can reduce crop yields by more than 90%.

Impacts

  • Poisonous to cattle
  • Release toxins into soil to stunt growth of native plants
  • Loss of land
  • Reduces native biodiversity
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods

What’s the solution?

Manual control

It is possible to prevent further spread of Parthenium by destroying the plant before it flowers. This is difficult because it cannot be manually removed as it causes irritation to the skin. Equally, the use of machinery to remove the plants can result in increased seed dispersal.

Chemical control

Various herbicides, when applied in high volume, have been found to be effective in managing the plant. However, these methods are both expensive and unsustainable. 

Biological control 

Biological control has been deemed the best sustainable solution to a Parthenium infestation. A rust fungus has been introduced to some parts of west Africa which has eradicated the weed in some locations.

Resources

Visit the dedicated Parthenium portal  on our Invasive Species Compendium

Stories related to this content

George Achilla

George Achilla

Kenya

George is a smallholder farmer in Kikopey, Kenya. Around his village he grows crops to feed himself, his family and to sell at the local market. He also has a few sheep, goats and cows.

Ng Han Chew (Parthenium)

Ng Han Chew

Kuala Ketil, Malaysia

Ng is a young farmer from Kuala Ketil. He owns a banana plantation and also grows various food crops and vegetables which he sells in local markets.

Fact file

Name Parthenium

Distribution

Asia, Africa, North/South/Central America, Oceania &Europe

For more information on distribution, view the full datasheet available here

Habitat

Thrives in moist, heavy soil, does well on disturbed land and wetlands

Natural enemies

In the native range of the plant, over 250 species were found to feed on Parthenium. Six of those are used as biocontrol agents as they feed solely on the stem, the leaf or the seeds of Parthenium. 

Invasiveness

Highly adaptive and reproduces quickly

Likelihood of entry

Easy to introduce accidentally and difficult to control

Climate

Tropical

Plant type

Herbaceous

Further reading

Visit our online resource of research and full text articles and journals
Invasive Species Compendium

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