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30 April 2015

Cleome viscosa (Asian spiderflower)

Datasheet Types: Pest, Crop, Invasive species, Host plant


This datasheet on Cleome viscosa covers Identity, Overview, Distribution, Dispersal, Hosts/Species Affected, Diagnosis, Biology & Ecology, Environmental Requirements, Impacts, Uses, Prevention/Control, Further Information.


Preferred Scientific Name
Cleome viscosa L.
Preferred Common Name
Asian spiderflower
Other Scientific Names
Arivela viscosa (L.) Raf.
Arivela viscosa var. deglabrata (Backer) M.L.Zhang & G.C.Tucker
Cleome acutifolia Elmer
Cleome icosandra L.
Cleome viscosa f. deglabrata (Backer) Jacobs
Cleome viscosa var. nagarjunakondensis Sundararagh.
Cleome viscosa var. parviflora Kuntze
Cleome viscosa var. viscosa
Polanisia icosandra (L.) Wight & Arn.
Polanisia microphylla Eichler
Polanisia viscosa (L.) Blume
Polanisia viscosa (L.) DC.
Polanisia viscosa var. deglabrata Backer
Polanisia viscosa var. icosandra (L.) Schweinf. ex Oliv.
Sinapistrum viscosum (L.) Moench
International Common Names
dog mustard
ground dove feed
wild mustard
yellow cleome
yellow mesambay
barba de chivo
malva pegajosa
acaya jaune
brède caya
mouzambe jaune
Local Common Names
huang hua cao
Dominican Republic
frijol cimarrón
Klebrige Spinnenpflanze
ancang ancang
wild caia
sa phac son tien
mamang kebo
mamang laki
mamang utan
silisian, hulaya
phak sian phee
phak som sian phee
EPPO code
CLEVI (Cleome viscosa)
EPPO code
PONVI (Polanisia viscosa)


Flowering plant of Cleome viscosa.
Maria C. Duarte
Cleome viscosa: a1, a2, flower (two views); b, seed.
Line drawing of Cleome viscosa.
Cleome viscosa: a1, a2, flower (two views); b, seed.

Summary of Invasiveness

C. viscosa is a fast-growing herb of humid and warm habitats. It is commonly found growing as a weed in disturbed sites, gardens, rice paddies, pastures, orchards, abandoned lands, and along roadsides (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015; PROTA, 2015). This species is included in the Global Compendium of Weeds where it is listed as an environmental and agricultural weed with moderate economic impacts principally in rice paddies and sugarcane plantations (Randall, 2012). It produces large numbers of sticky seeds which can be dispersed by wind, water, and as a contaminant in farm machinery, farm produce, soil, or adhered to clothes and animal fur (Smith, 1981; PROTA, 2015). Currently, C. viscosa is listed as invasive in India, Singapore, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Galapagos Islands, and on several islands in the Pacific Ocean such Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, and Papua New Guinea among others (Waterhouse, 1993; Kairo et al., 2003; Chandra, 2012; PIER, 2015; Rojas-Sandoval and Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2015). 

Taxonomic Tree

This content is currently unavailable.

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Cleome is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cleomaceae. Previously this genus had been placed in the family Capparaceae, until DNA studies found that Cleomaceae genera are more closely related to Brassicaceae than Capparaceae (Stevens, 2012). The APGII System allowed for Cleomaceae to be included in the Brassicaceae, and APGIII still recognises Cleomaceae for the genus Cleome. [N.B. Taxonomic tree is awaiting updating from Capparaceae to Cleomaceae.]

The family Cleomaceae includes about 12 genera and 250 species distributed in tropical and warm temperate regions (The Plant List, 2013). Members of this family are herbaceous or shrubby plants with palmately compound leaves; the flowers have four clawed petals, six stamens, and two carpels; the gynoecium has a gynophore, the stamens have long filaments, and the dehiscent fruit has a persistent, loop-like woody placenta that remains on the plant after the fruit valves have fallen off (Stevens, 2012).

Plant Type

Seed propagated


The following description is taken from Flora of China Editorial Committee (2015):

C. viscosa is an annual herb, up to 160 cm tall. Stems simple or branched, ± glandular hirsute, viscous. Petiole 1.5–4.5(–8) cm, glandular hirsute; leaflets 3 or 5; leaflet blades ovate to oblanceolate-elliptic, (0.6–)2–6 × 0.5–3.5 cm, both surfaces glandular hirsute, margin entire to glandular ciliate, apex acute to obtuse. Inflorescences 5–10 cm but 10–15 cm in fruit; bracts 1–2.5 cm, palmately compound, 3-foliolate, often deciduous, glandular hirsute. Pedicel 0.6–3 cm, glandular hirsute. Inflorescences 3–6-flowered. Sepals green, equal, distinct, 5–10 × 0.8–1.2 mm, lanceolate, persistent, glandular hirsute, base cuneate, margin entire. Petals bright yellow, basally sometimes purple, arranged in an adaxial semicircle before anthesis but radially arranged at anthesis, 7–14 × 3–4 mm, oblong to ovate, clawed. Stamens (dimorphic, 4–10 adaxial ones much shorter with a swelling below anthers) green, 5–9 mm; anthers green, 1.4–3 mm. Pistil 6–10 mm, densely glandular; style 1–1.2 mm; stigma capitate. Fruit capsule 3–10 cm × 2–4 mm, strongly ridged longitudinally, dehiscing only partway from apex to base, glandular pubescent or essentially glabrous. Seeds 25–40 (up to 100) per capsule, light brown, 1.2–1.8 × 1–1.2 mm, compressed spherical, transversely finely ridged. 


C. viscosa is probably native to Asia, but now has a pantropical distribution and is naturalized in tropical and subtropical regions in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Oceania (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015; PIER, 2015; USDA-ARS, 2015).

Distribution Map

This content is currently unavailable.

Distribution Table

This content is currently unavailable.

History of Introduction and Spread

There is very little information available about the history of introduction of C. viscosa, but it is highly probable that this species was introduced accidentally as a contaminant or as a weed in nursery materials (Holm et al., 1979). In the USA, it was recorded in the late 1800s. In the West Indies, herbarium collections shown that this species was first collected in 1878 in Martinique; 1882 in the U.S. Virgin Islands (i.e., St Thomas) and in 1892 in Guadeloupe (US Herbarium Collection). C. viscosa was already established on the Windward Caribbean Islands at the beginning of the 20th century (Burg et al., 2012). 

Risk of Introduction

The risk of introduction of C. viscosa is moderate to high. This species produces large numbers of sticky seeds that can be easily dispersed by wind, water and machinery associated to human activities and has the potential to grow as a weed in ruderal areas, and agricultural and pasture lands. Thus, C. viscosa has the potential to spread much further into new habitats.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

C. viscosa spreads by seeds, which can be dispersed by wind, gravity, water, and as a contaminant in farm machinery, farm produce and soil, or adhered to human clothes or animal fur (Holm et al., 1979; PIER, 2015; PROTA, 2015). 

Pathway Causes

Pathway causeNotesLong distanceLocalReferences
Crop production (pathway cause)Weed on rice and sugarcane plantationsYesYes
Disturbance (pathway cause)Common in grassy slopes, wasteland and along roadsidesYesYes
Escape from confinement or garden escape (pathway cause)  Yes

Pathway Vectors

Hosts/Species Affected

C. viscosa is a weed in ruderal areas, woodland, grassland, rice paddies, and sugarcane plantations (Holm et al., 1979; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015; PROTA, 2015).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

Growth Stages

Flowering stage
Fruiting stage
Vegetative growing stage


C. viscosa grows in warm and wet conditions on sandy soils, but sometimes on calcareous and rocky soils (Graveson, 2012; PROTA, 2015). It is naturalized in arid and dry lowlands in the Galápagos Islands (McMullen, 1999). It is locally abundant as a naturalized weed in cultivated fields and in ruderal areas and grasslands from sea level up to 1000 m (PIER, 2015). 

Habitat List

CategorySub categoryHabitatPresenceStatus
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural landPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural landPresent, no further detailsNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchardsPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchardsPresent, no further detailsNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems)Present, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedManaged grasslands (grazing systems)Present, no further detailsNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areasPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedDisturbed areasPresent, no further detailsNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedRail / roadsidesPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedRail / roadsidesPresent, no further detailsNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedUrban / peri-urban areasPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedUrban / peri-urban areasPresent, no further detailsNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedUrban / peri-urban areasPresent, no further detailsProductive/non-natural
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslandsPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslandsPresent, no further detailsNatural
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalWetlandsPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalWetlandsPresent, no further detailsNatural

Biology and Ecology


The chromosome number reported for C. viscosa varies from 2n = 20, 2n = 34, to 2n = 60 (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015).

Reproductive Biology and Phenology
C. viscosa has hermaphroditic small yellow flowers. The flowers are ephemeral, opening in the morning and closing in the afternoon and they are visited and likely pollinated by bees (USDA-NRCS, 2015). In China, C. viscosa has been recorded flowering from July to September and fruiting in October (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2015).

C. viscosa is a fast-growing annual herb. The seeds have no dormancy and germinate readily after shedding. Plants start flowering 3–4 weeks after germination and the life cycle is about 3 months (USDA-ARS, 2015; PROTA, 2015).

Environmental Requirements
C. viscosa grows best in humid and hot habitats on sandy soils, but also on calcareous and rocky soils.


Climate typeDescriptionPreferred or toleratedRemarks
Af - Tropical rainforest climate> 60mm precipitation per monthPreferred 
Am - Tropical monsoon climateTropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))Preferred 
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer< 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])Preferred 
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate< 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])Preferred 
BS - Steppe climate> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitationTolerated 

Air Temperature

ParameterLower limit (°C)Upper limit (°C)
Mean annual temperature1428


ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration  number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall3002000mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

Soil texture > light
Soil texture > medium
Soil reaction > acid
Soil reaction > neutral

List of Pests

This content is currently unavailable.

Impact Summary

Environment (generally)Positive and negative
Human healthPositive and negative

Impact: Economic

C. viscosa is a weed with economic impacts in crops such as rice and sugarcane, as well as being a problem in pastures and gardens (PIER, 2015; PROTA, 2015). 

Impact: Environmental

C. viscosa is an environmental weed in woodlands, grasslands, ruderal sites, roadsides, and coastal forests where it has the potential to outcompete native vegetation (Kairo et al., 2003; Chandra, 2012; Randall, 2012; PIER, 2015; Rojas-Sandoval and Acevedo-Rodriguez, 2015).

Risk and Impact Factors


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)
Fast growing
Has high reproductive potential

Impact outcomes

Damaged ecosystem services
Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
Loss of medicinal resources
Modification of successional patterns
Monoculture formation
Negatively impacts agriculture
Reduced amenity values
Reduced native biodiversity
Threat to/ loss of native species

Impact mechanisms

Competition - monopolizing resources
Competition - smothering
Rapid growth

Likelihood of entry/control

Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
Difficult to identify/detect in the field


In tropical Africa, C. viscosa is occasionally used as a leaf vegetable. The bitter leaves are eaten fresh, dried or cooked. In India the seeds, which have a pleasant flavour, are used as a condiment substitute for mustard seed and cumin in the preparation of pickling spices, sausages, vegetables, curries and pulses. In Sumatra, the dried and powdered leaves and seeds are added to tobacco to enhance its narcotic properties (Windadri, 2001). In Asia (southern China, Guam, India), leaves and seeds are used medicinally to treat infections, fever, rheumatism and headaches (PROTA, 2015). 

Uses List

Medicinal, pharmaceutical > Traditional/folklore
Human food and beverage > Food additive
Human food and beverage > Spices and culinary herbs

Prevention and Control

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.
Small infestations of C. viscosa can be controlled by hand. Herbicide control includes the use of mono-linuron, trifluralin, chlorbromuron, atrazine, prometryne, terbutryne, metribuzin, diuron, and oxadiazon.

Links to Websites

Plant Resources of Tropical Africa 


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Chandra SK, 2012. Invasive Alien Plants of Indian Himalayan Region- Diversity and Implication. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 3:177-184.
Charles Darwin Foundation, 2008. Database inventory of introduced plant species in the rural and urban zones of Galapagos. Database inventory of introduced plant species in the rural and urban zones of Galapagos. Galapagos, Ecuador: Charles Darwin Foundation, unpaginated.
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Published online: 30 April 2015





Julissa Rojas-Sandoval

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