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27 June 2023

Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde)

Datasheet Types: Invasive species, Tree, Host plant

Abstract

This datasheet on Parkinsonia aculeata covers Identity, Overview, Distribution, Dispersal, Hosts/Species Affected, Diagnosis, Biology & Ecology, Environmental Requirements, Natural Enemies, Impacts, Uses, Prevention/Control, Management, Genetics and Breeding, Economics, Further Information.

Identity

Preferred Scientific Name
Parkinsonia aculeata L.
Preferred Common Name
Mexican palo-verde
Other Scientific Names
Parkinsonia thornberi M.E. Jones
International Common Names
English
Barbados flower fence
Jerusalem thorn
Mexican paloverde
parkinsonia
retama
Spanish
cina-cina
palo verde
French
epine de Jerusalem
genet epineux
Chinese
bian zhou mu
Local Common Names
Argentina
cina cina
retamo rojo
sina sina
Barbados
holy thorn
royal cashiaw
Brazil
espinho de Jerusalem
rosa da turquia
rosa da turquina
turco
Costa Rica
sulphato
Cuba
espinillo
junco marino
palo de rayo
pararrayo
El Salvador
sulphato
Gambia
barkasoñé
barkasonyo
julugodi
parkasonu
Germany
Jerusalemdorn
Stacheliger Ginsterbaum
Ghana
zugu-bai-tia
Guatemala
palo de rayo
sulphatillo
sulphato
India
adanti
bawal
kikar
pardeshi baval
ram baval
rombawal
sima tumma
sima-tumma
vedi-badhal
vilayati babul
vilayati kikar
Italy
ginestra spinosa
spina di Jerusalem
Mexico
bacapore
bagote
cacaporo
cahuinga
guacóporo
guichebella
guichibelle
haocóporo
junco
junco marino
mezquite extranjero
mezquite verde
quechi-pelle
retama china
retama de cerda
Nicaragua
espino negro
sauce del playa
Niger
sassabaanii
Nigeria
bàgààrùwàr maka
bàgààrùwàr másàr
dán-sárkín ítáátúwàà
jannatu
sassabaanii
sharan labbi
shukar hali
Pakistan
kabuli kikar
vilayati kikar
Senegal
barkasoñé
barkasonyo
parkasonu
Somalia
geed walaayo
Sri Lanka
belaiti kikar
USA
horsebean

Pictures

Flowering habit of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde). Estero Llano Grande State Park, Texas, USA. March 2023.
Flowering habit
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Flowering habit. Estero Llano Grande State Park, Texas, USA. March 2023.
©Sonnia Hill/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Habit of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde). Çukurova University Campus, Adana, Türkiye. June 2020.
Habit
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Habit. Çukurova University Campus, Adana, Türkiye. June 2020.
©Zeynel Cebeci/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 4.0
Flowers of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde). Çukurova University Campus, Adana, Türkiye. June 2020.
Flowers
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Flowers. Çukurova University Campus, Adana, Türkiye. June 2020.
©Zeynel Cebeci/via Wikimedia Commons - CC BY-SA 4.0
Habit of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde). Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, USA. January 2018.
Habit
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Habit. Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, USA. January 2018.
©Brian Henderson/via Flickr - CC BY-NC 2.0
Flowering habit of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde). San Diego Botanic Garden. October 2020.
Flowering habit
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Flowering habit. San Diego Botanic Garden. October 2020.
©Cultivar413/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Flowers of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde). Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, USA. January 2018.
Flowers
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Flowers. Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, USA. January 2018.
©Brian Henderson/via Flickr - CC BY-NC 2.0
Flowers of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde). Claremont, California, USA. November 2006.
Flowers
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Flowers. Claremont, California, USA. November 2006.
©The Marmot/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Flowers of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde) in a garden setting. San Diego. July 2011.
Flowers
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Flowers in a garden. San Diego. July 2011.
©Wendy Cutler/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Foliage of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde). December 2012.
Foliage
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Foliage. December 2012.
©Ettore Balocchi/via Flickr - CC BY 2.0
Flowers and foliage of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde). Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. December 2021.
Flowers and foliage
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Flowers and foliage. Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. December 2021.
©Vijay Anand Ismavel/via Flickr - CC BY-NC 2.0
Seedpods of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde). Exmouth, Western Australia, Australia. November 2012.
Seedpod
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Seedpod. Exmouth, Western Australia, Australia. November 2012.
©Bill & Mark Bell/via Flickr - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Ripe seedpods of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde).
Ripe indehiscent pods
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Ripe seedpods.
©Colin Hughes, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. Oxford
Ripe pods of Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde) float in water for up to 14 days, promoting effective seed dispersal.
Dispersal of seed pods
Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo-verde); Ripe pods of P. aculeata float in water for up to 14 days, promoting effective seed dispersal.
©Colin Hughes, Dept. Plant Sciences, Univ. Oxford

Overview

Importance

Parkinsonia aculeata is a small, thorny tree which is tolerant of drought, waterlogging and saline conditions. Although it is not considered to be of much value in Central America and Mexico where it is arguably native, it has been introduced pantropically as an ornamental, hedging and fodder tree (Stewart et al., 1992; Woods, 1992). The establishment of extensive naturalised weedy populations, especially in Australia, has stimulated research into the biological control of this species (Woods, 1992), yet it continues to attract attention as a candidate for the reforestation of degraded environments, as a multipurpose agroforestry tree and as a minor human food source (e.g. Madany, 1991; Rajaram and Janardhanan, 1991; Stewart et al., 1992). In addition to its aggressive weedy tendencies, lack of nitrogen-fixing ability (Sprent, 1986) may limit the usefulness of the species. Nevertheless, it is often selected where foresters seek 'anything that grows' in harsh, degraded or marginal lands, and in particular seasonally flooded sites which are not tolerated by other species.

Summary of Invasiveness

Parkinsonia aculeata is one of the most widespread and well-known woody weeds in arid and semiarid regions, and has become naturalized and shown weedy tendencies in all countries where it is present, whether native or introduced. This thorny species grows forming dense impenetrable thickets that degrade pasture, choke waterways and prevent cattle reaching water. Often introduced as a fodder, hedging or ornamental tree, with the ability to tolerate the driest and most saline sites and waterlogging, its prolific seeding led to rapid spread. It is a prohibited weed in Australia and a serious pest in many other countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

Taxonomic Tree

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Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Parkinsonia is a genus in the family Fabaceae, subfamily Caesalpinioideae. As currently delimited it contains 29 species native to the Americas and Africa. Parkinsonia aculeata is an easily recognized and morphologically well-delimited species. There has been more than a century of confusion surrounding the delimitation and subdivision of Parkinsonia and Cercidium (reviewed by Carter, 1974b). Carter argued that Cercidium forms a discrete, easily recognizable genus confined to the Americas and preferred to consider Parkinsonia as a monotypic genus, comprising only P. aculeata. However, a recent detailed study of the two genera suggests that the species of Cercidium should be transferred to Parkinsonia, and that Parkinsonia africana and Cercidium species are more closely related to P. aculeata than the East African species (Hawkins, 1996).

Plant Type

Perennial
Seed / spore propagated
Broadleaved
Shrub
Tree
Woody

Description

Parkinsonia aculeata is a shrubby tree, growing to a height of 4-10 m. Lone trees or well-spaced trees may be unbranched to 1-1.5 m with a well-developed bole up to 30 cm diameter, but it is common to find low-branched or multi-stemmed individuals. Trunk fissured, black-brown. Smaller branches and shoots green. Branches prominently armed. Leaves bi-pinnate. Petiole and primary rachis reduced, 10-30 mm long, and stoutly spinescent. Secondary rachis, 1-3 pairs congested at the base of the primary rachis, 18-40 cm long, flattened, and bearing 25-60 pairs of tiny, weakly-mucronate obovate-elliptic leaflets which are often deciduous. Paired stipules spinescent. Inflorescences racemose, 4-20 cm long, on short, actively growing axillary shoots. Pedicels 1.5-2 cm long, proximally jointed. Flower petals 5, yellow, clawed banner petal 9-13 mm long, flecked with orange, turning deep orange-brown and folding forwards post-pollination. Calyx lobes obovate-lanceolate, reflexed. Fruits (legumes) indehiscent, orange-brown glabrous pods, subterete, constricted and flattened between seeds. Seeds 2-8 per pod, 8-11 mm long, dark and light brown or grey mottled.

Distribution

Although the majority of authors agree that P. aculeata is native to the New World, there are difficulties in identifying the natural distribution of the species (Isley, 1975; McVaugh, 1987; Woods, 1992). Extensive isolated pure stands of P. aculeata are found throughout southern USA, Mexico and Central America at seasonally flooded former lakebed sites, coastal estuaries or lagoons with deep black vertisols. It is rarely found outside these sites, which are often highly disjunct, except as a putatively recent invader of roadsides, railway lines or irrigation channels, or where planted. Hughes (1989) has suggested that these Central American and Mexican sites may represent the true natural distribution of the species.
According to some sources, P. aculeata is native to southern USA, the Caribbean, Mexico and northern South America (PIER, 2001); Garcia (2000) notes that it is also native to northern Argentina. Starr et al. (2003) state that the native distribution is disputed. It is likely that it should include at least the whole of mainland Central America. Descriptions of native vegetation complexes in Peru (Pasiecznik et al., 2001) suggest that it is native to dry coastal areas there, and thus, probably, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. Wiggins and Porter (1971) state it is native to the Galapagos, which is disputed by Starr et al. (2003).

Distribution Map

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Distribution Table

This content is currently unavailable.

History of Introduction and Spread

The literature suggests P. aculeata was well established throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and South America by the 1700s, but the natural or original distribution of P. aculeata in the Americas may have been more restricted than either that or present-day distributions.
The documentation of introductions and the establishment of naturalized populations of P. aculeata outside the New World is incomplete. Introduction to Australia was in the mid- to late 1800s (Woods, 1992). Extensive weedy populations are now established across the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and there are infestations in Queensland and northern New South Wales (Miller and Pickering, 1980; Wilson and Miller, 1987; Woods 1992). Promotion in Australia as an evergreen hedge (Mueller, 1888) does not indicate the earliest intercontinental movement of the species. Specimens collected from Persia (present-day Iran) and present-day Senegal, India, Pakistan and the Mascarenes prior to 1850 are deposited in the Kew Herbarium.
The use of P. aculeata throughout arid regions of the British Empire, and later the Commonwealth, as an ornamental, for soil fixation and as a hedging plant was documented by Troup and Joshi (1983) and by Streets (1962). P. aculeata has a widespread distribution in Africa, and is becoming naturalized in many areas. Dale (1953) recommended P. aculeata for forestry usage in Uganda, and Brenan (1967) noted cultivation of P. aculeata in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Neither was aware of naturalization in East Africa, though more recently an extensive naturalized population has been discovered in the vicinity of Nakuru, Kenya. P. aculeata is cultivated for ornamental use, shade, windbreaks and hedging and is sometimes naturalized in Somalia (Madany, 1991; Thulin, 1993). Coates-Palgrave (1977) noted cultivation of P. aculeata as an ornamental in South Africa, and the presence of naturalized populations in Mozambique along the Limpopo River, between Nelspruit in the Transvaal and Maputo in Mozambique and in the vicinity of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Parkinsonia aculeata is planted throughout West Africa (Hutchison and Dalziel, 1928) and is commonly planted in dry zone Nigerian towns and villages (Keay et al., 1964). It has been introduced to the Cape Verde islands as a forestry species: specimens deposited at Kew were collected from Cape Verde as early as 1895; specimen notes from 1919 indicate the use of P. aculeata as a hedging plant. It was not included in the first edn of the ‘Flora of Syria, Palestine and Sinai’ (Post, 1896); in the second edn, Post and Dinsmore (1932) noted widespread cultivation. Lock and Simpson (1991) report cultivation in Iran, Iraq, Oman and South Yemen. Houérou (1985) considered that it is well adapted to the climate of the Mediterranean zone, and indeed, naturalized individuals have been reported from Sicily (Orlando and Grisafi, 1977) and the species appears to be established as a weed in the environs of Athens (Flora of Greece, 2013).
The distribution of P. aculeata in Asia, other than in India, is less extensive, and may represent more recent introductions. Lock and Heald (1994) note that P. aculeata is sometimes cultivated in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, China and Vietnam.

Risk of Introduction

The risk of introduction of P. aculeata is high and the species is included in the Global Compendium of Weeds (Randall, 2012). Since spontaneous populations are found wherever the species is introduced, the potential utility at any site must be weighed against the risk of infestation before P. aculeata is chosen for planting. In Australia, P. aculeata has been declared a P2 or a P3 weed under the Rural Lands Protection Act 1985 (Department of Natural Resources, Queensland, 1998); P2 being that the plant must be destroyed, with individual landholders required to destroy all plants on the land concerned; and P3 being that the number and density of infestations must be significantly and progressively reduced, with individual landholders required to destroy all plants or take other action as approved by the local government in accordance with the Act.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Natural Dispersal

Parkinsonia aculeata spreads by seed but it can also produce suckers (particularly after it has been damaged). Birds are known to spread the seeds, and although the pods are not particularly palatable, wild mammals and livestock must surely play a part. Oceanic dispersal may be possible, though this is not certain. Effective water dispersal of pods facilitates invasion of seasonally flooded land and of water-courses.

Intentional Introduction

The main reason for the global spread of P. aculeata is the deliberate introduction for use as a fodder tree, for hedging or as an ornamental. However, awareness of its status as a weed now means further introductions are less likely. The attractive characteristics of P. aculeata (performance under difficult or harsh environmental conditions; coppicing ability, pollarding response and resistance to browsing; plentiful production of seed) are those that are also problematic weedy characteristics (Hughes, 1994).

Hosts/Species Affected

Parkinsonia aculeata is generally a weed of rangelands and pastures, only rarely is it considered a problem weed in cultivated land.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

In western Queensland, Australia, P. aculeata can be confused with several other thorny bushes, such as Acacia nilotica subsp. indica (prickly acacia), Acacia farnesiana (mimosa bush) and the mesquites (Prosopis spp.). All are relatively common and widespread, and all have spines, compound leaves, yellow flowers and elongated seed pods. Information on distinguishing between these species is available in a pest fact sheet on the identification of prickly bushes in Australia from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland, 2020). Briefly, these species can be distinguished on the basis of the following features:
Parkinsonia aculeata has leaves that are a flattened green leaf stalk with small leaflets moderately spaced along each side. The other three species have ferny-type leaves. Bark colour can also be used: Parkinsonia plants of all ages have green bark; the young bark of Prosopis spp. is often green and/or dark red; the young bark of A. nilotica subsp. indica has a tinge of orange or green; the young bark of A. farnesiana is grey with white spots.

Habitat

Parkinsonia aculeata grows in tropical dry forests, open scrubs, disturbed sites, coastal forests, grasslands and open woodlands in arid and semiarid habitats. Like many other woody legumes, P. aculeata is adapted to dry conditions and appears particularly invasive on degraded rangelands; not being nitrogen-fixing, it cannot have a comparative advantage in terms of soil nitrogen. It is tolerant of drought, waterlogging and saline conditions, and is still often selected for planting where foresters seek 'anything that grows' in harsh, degraded or marginal lands, or particular seasonally flooded sites which are not tolerated by other species.

Habitat List

CategorySub categoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial Cultivated / agricultural landPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Disturbed areasPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial Managed grasslands (grazing systems)Present, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial – ManagedRail / roadsidesPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslandsPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalRiverbanksPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
TerrestrialTerrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalDesertsPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
Littoral Coastal areasPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)

Biology and Ecology

Genetics

The chromosome number reported for P. aculeata is 2n = 28. The conservation status of the species, in terms of interspecific variation, has not been examined. The establishment of extensive weedy populations, ready regeneration from seed or coppice stumps, and abundance in its putative range suggests that the species is not at risk (Stewart et al., 1992). Natural hybrids have been described between P. aculeata and Cercidium praecox, a thorny arid zone species with a disjunct distribution spanning the arid regions of tropical and subtropical North and South America (Carter, 1974a; Hawkins, 1996). The hybrids, which are unarmed, have been identified as a potential new agroforestry species (Hughes, 1989), although they may pose a novel and significant threat of weediness. Hybrids are known to often display increased weedy tendencies (Abbott, 1992), so novel hybrids of Parkinsonia should be utilized with particular care or avoided.

Reproductive Biology

Parkinsonia aculeata begins to flower and fruit 5 to 6 years after planting. Many slightly bean-like, fragrant yellow flowers are borne on panicles of slender stalks throughout the year. Flowers are hermaphroditic and visited and pollinated by large and small bees.

Physiology and Phenology

Flowering in P. aculeata occurs in the second or third growth season (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). In Central America, peak flowering is from February to March, with sporadic flowering thereafter. Flowering is somewhat later in Mexico and the southern USA, with peak flowering occurring between April and May. In India, flowering is in April and May, with sporadic flowering almost throughout the year (Troup and Joshi, 1983). In Australia, plants usually flower in May or June but, as elsewhere, sporadic flowering can occur throughout the year (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Leaflets may be partially or completely deciduous in the dry season, but the phyllodial secondary rachises are persistent.

Activity Patterns

Propagation of P. aculeata is generally by seed and seeding is prolific, though pods are indehiscent. Mahmoud and El-Sheikh (1981) noted two types of seed: light seeds which are water permeable and germinate freely, and dark seeds which appear to have a harder seed coat and require pre-treatment. Seedlings germinate over a wide temperature range, varying from continuous exposure to temperatures between 15° and 35°C to alternating temperature regimes of 20°/10°C, 25°/15°C and 30°/20°C (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Propagation is also reported by (root or shoot) cuttings or air-layering (Singh, 1989).

Associations

Parkinsonia aculeata does not fix nitrogen and thus has no association with Rhizobia (Sprent, 1987). It is found in similar vegetation associations through Central America and northern South America, often with Acacia spp. (e.g. A. farnesiana in Central America and the USA), Caesalpinia spp., Capparis spp., Cercidium spp., Leucaena spp. and Prosopis spp. (Pasiecznik et al., 2001).

Environmental Requirements

Parkinsonia aculeata is tolerant of a wide range of soil and climate types. It may be assumed that triggers for invasion would include flooding, which would spread seed widely and provide improved conditions for establishment. This species is extremely hardy and thrives in moist and semi-arid environments, surviving seasonal flooding and a dry season of greater than 8 months duration. A mean annual rainfall between 250 mm and 1000 mm is tolerated; though the species is most valuable in dry areas and may exhibit weedy tendencies where mean annual rainfall exceeds 500 mm (Hocking, 1993; Luna, 1996). Temperatures as high as 48°C and mild frosts are tolerated, although die-back occurs after intense or extended frosts (Hocking, 1993).
Seedlings tolerate a wide range of soil pH, from 3 to 11 (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992) and moderate to excessively saline soils (Webb et al., 1984; Singh, 1989; Luna, 1996). Although many authors suggest that P. aculeata will not tolerate waterlogging (Webb et al., 1984; Singh, 1989; Luna, 1996), it is known to favour seasonally flooded sites which other species are less able to tolerate (Miller and Pickering, 1980; Hughes, 1989; Killeen et al., 1993). Although the natural distribution of P. aculeata is arguably limited to seasonally flooded black cotton vertisols (Hughes, 1989), tolerance of soil types is wide. Good growth has been reported from shallow and skeletal soils, gravelly, rocky gullies and hillsides and deeper loamy valley soils (Hocking, 1993). The use of P. aculeata as a soil-binding species for sandy sites has been reported (Abohassan and Rudolph, 1978; Mahmoud and El-Sheikh, 1981; Troup and Joshi, 1983).

Vegetation Types

deserts
dry forests

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude lower (m)Altitude upper (m)
38-340600

Air Temperature

ParameterLower limit (°C)Upper limit (°C)
Absolute minimum temperature0 
Mean annual temperature2028
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month2232
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month1824

Rainfall

ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Dry season duration69number of consecutive months with <40 mm rainfall
Mean annual rainfall2001000mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Summer
Winter
Uniform

Soil Tolerances

Soil texture > Light
Soil texture > Medium
Soil texture > Heavy
Soil reaction > Very acid
Soil reaction > Acid
Soil reaction > Neutral
Soil drainage > Free
Soil drainage > Impeded
Soil drainage > Seasonally waterlogged
Special soil tolerances > Saline

Soil Types

arid soils
saline soils
vertisols

List of Pests

This content is currently unavailable.

Notes on Natural Enemies

No pests and diseases of importance have been noted for P. aculeata. Singh (1989) noted termite damage to seedlings. In India, the larvae of Enarmonia malesana bore into pods, and Icerya aegyptiaca and Pseudoaonidia tesserata [Duplaspidiotus tesseratus] feed on sap (Troup and Joshi, 1983). Woods (1992) made a study of possible biological control agents and collected 65 phytophagous insect species from P. aculeata growing in the Sonoran desert region of southwestern USA and Mexico. Although noted as a secondary host of I. aegyptiaca, this species is so polyphagous, widespread, and injurious to commercial crop species that it cannot be considered for biological control of P. aculeata.

Natural enemies

Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Mimosestes ulkeiHerbivore
Plants|Seeds
not specific   
Penthobruchus germainiHerbivore
Plants|Seeds
not specific   
Rhinacloa callicratesHerbivore
Plants|Leaves
not specific Australia 
Icerya aegyptiaca (breadfruit mealybug)Herbivore
Plants|Leaves
not specific   
Enarmonia malesanaHerbivore
Plants|Seeds
Plants|Fruits/pods
not specific   
Duplaspidiotus tesseratusHerbivore
Plants|Stems
not specific   
Eueupithecia cisplatensisHerbivore
Plants|Leaves
not specific   

Impact Summary

CategoryImpact
Animal/plant collectionsNone
Animal/plant productsNegative
Biodiversity (generally)None
Crop productionNone
Environment (generally)Negative
Fisheries / aquacultureNone
Forestry productionNone
Human healthNone
Livestock productionNegative
Native faunaNone
Native floraNone
Rare/protected speciesNone
TourismNone
Trade/international relationsNone
Transport/travelNone

Impact

Effects upon livestock grazing are considerable in Australia, though no specific economic data has been forthcoming. Not only does competition affect the production of forage grasses, but access to water sources is restricted by the presence of extensive stands, and the thorns may have negative effects on livestock through damage to hooves and infected sores.

Impact: Economic

The effects of P. aculeata upon livestock grazing are considerable in Australia, though no specific economic data are available. Not only does competition affect the production of forage grasses, but access to water sources is restricted by the presence of extensive stands, and the thorns may have negative effects on livestock through damage to hooves and infected sores.

Impact: Environmental

Impact on Habitats

Invasion of watercourses by P. aculeata may have a negative impact upon the hydrology of a region. Due to its prolific seeding, this species can become weedy. It has the capability to outcompete non-shade tolerant species. In South Africa, P. aculeata is noted as being a potential transformer species. It has been listed as a noxious weed in all Australian states. Wetlands are also vulnerable because P. aculeata thickets alter watercourses and cause erosion.

Impact on Biodiversity

Parkinsonia aculeata grows forming dense thickets that compete with and exclude native plant species and alter successional processes. Replacement of native species in invaded areas is leading to lower quality habitats for native biodiversity.

Impact: Biodiversity

Reports are not available on invasion of protected areas, though considering the spread of this species, this must have surely occurred. There are no known instances of P. aculeata threatening another species survival, but rather the reverse, that the dense thickets formed may provide a welcome refuge for birds and small mammals from predators or hunters.

Impact: Social

Thorns are considered an occasional hazard.

Risk and Impact Factors

Invasiveness

Invasive in its native range
Proved invasive outside its native range
Highly adaptable to different environments
Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
Has high reproductive potential
Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year

Impact outcomes

Negatively impacts agriculture
Reduced native biodiversity

Impact mechanisms

Competition - monopolizing resources
Produces spines, thorns or burrs

Likelihood of entry/control

Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
Difficult/costly to control

Uses

Parkinsonia aculeata is a small fast-growing, light-demanding tree most commonly used as a thorny hedge species, as a shade tree or an ornamental. In a hedgerow system, lopping may provide leaves or pods for fodder when other foods are not available. Trees are browse-resistant, and withstand pruning and coppice well. P. aculeata is widely used as a thorn hedge and as an ornamental, shade or shelterbelt tree (Howes, 1946; Cunliff, 1974; Troup and Joshi, 1983; Webb et al., 1984; Dimmitt, 1987). It is recommended for planting in extreme site conditions (Stewart et al., 1992) and may therefore be of value in the rehabilitation of extremely degraded sites, for example in the reclamation of wastelands, gullied areas and mining spoil (Hocking, 1993). Use as a sand-binding species and for afforesting sandy wastelands has been reported (Abohassan and Rudolph, 1978; Mahmoud and El-Sheikh, 1981; Troup and Joshi, 1983). P.aculeata is particularly well suited for afforestation of heavy, poorly-draining soils which are not tolerated by other species. It can be a valuable bee plant (Eisikowitch and Masad, 1982). Perez Arbelaez (1956) noted its use as a shade tree for coffee and cocoa, although little shade is given.
Wood from P. aculeata is used as firewood and for charcoal and sometimes in paper-making (Thonner, 1915; Standley and Steyermark, 1937; Deshaprabhu, 1966; Hocking, 1993; Burkill, 1995; Luna, 1996). The wood is considered easy to work, but it is brittle and of dubious durability (Stewart et al., 1992). It may also be used for making tool handles, or light poles and posts (Singh, 1989; Luna, 1996).
Leaves and pods are reported to be used as fodder (Mahmoud and El-Sheikh, 1981; Webb et al., 1984; Stewart et al., 1992). Hocking (1993) noted that leaves and twigs are sometimes fed to goats in India, and Singh (1989) noted the use of the leaves for sheep and goat fodder. Trees are not browsed by cattle or horses (Burkill, 1995). In tropical West Africa, children eat the flowers and seed (Burkill, 1995), and in Sonora-Chihuahua, Mexico, the raw seeds are eaten by the Warihio Indians (Gentry, 1963). In India, the seeds have been investigated as a minor human food source (Rajaram and Janardhanan, 1991).
The use of P. aculeata in traditional medicine has been reported: an infusion of the leaves is considered to have diaphoretic and antiseptic properties, and used in the treatment of fevers, epilepsy and vomiting (Perez Arbelaez, 1956; Burkill, 1995).

Uses List

Environmental > Agroforestry
Environmental > Boundary, barrier or support
Environmental > Erosion control or dune stabilization
Environmental > Revegetation
Environmental > Shade and shelter
Environmental > Soil conservation
Environmental > Windbreak
Materials > Carved material
Materials > Fibre
Materials > Wood/timber
Medicinal, pharmaceutical > Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
Fuels > Charcoal
Fuels > Fuelwood
Human food and beverage > Honey/honey flora
Animal feed, fodder, forage > Fodder/animal feed
Ornamental > Garden plant

Wood Products

Roundwood > Building poles
Roundwood > Posts
Roundwood > Roundwood structures
Woodware > Industrial and domestic woodware
Woodware > Tool handles
Pulp > short-fibre pulp
Other > Charcoal

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.
Control

Cultural Control

With a sufficient fuel load, fire can kill smaller seedlings of P. aculeata, however adult plants will usually survive (Department of Natural Resources, Queensland, 1998). Singh (1989) noted that waterlogging and browsing animals could negatively affect seedling survival. In Australia, improving pasture conditions is suggested as a means of managing P. aculeata through competition (Department of Natural Resources, Queensland, 1998).

Physical/Mechanical Control

Small seedlings and juveniles can be hand pulled, taking care not to injure oneself on the thorns (Starr et al., 2003). Mechanical removal by bulldozing, pulling with a tractor or grubbing gives effective control, especially where subsequent seedling growth can be controlled (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). In Australia, ripping is found to be effective, though it can only be done in level areas away from watercourses (Department of Natural Resources, Queensland, 1998). In addition, follow up work is crucial for total control as disturbance often leads to subsequent seed germination.

Biological Control

In Australia, three biological organisms have been introduced to try to reduce the invasion of P. aculeata: two seed beetles (Penthobruchus germaini and Mimosestes ulkei) which attack the mature seeds, and one leaf bug (Rhinacloa callicrates) which feeds on the leaves and shoots (Department of Natural Resources, Queensland, 1998). Although all three insects have established at release sites, P. germaini is currently the most effective at establishing and attacking seeds of P. aculeata. The following information on biological control agents introduced to Australia for control of P. aculeata is from the Department of Natural Resources, Queensland (1998):
Penthobruchus germaini is a small brown beetle from Argentina. First released in Australia in 1995, it has established more readily than M. ulkei. It has established and spread rapidly at all release sites in Australia. Up to 95% seed predation has been documented in some of the release sites. This species is documented as a very important tool in the management of P. aculeata in Australia. Female beetles lay up to 350 eggs on the surface of seed pods. Larvae tunnel into seeds soon after hatching, spending the developmental period in the same seed they entered after hatching. They consume all of the living contents of the seed preventing germination of that seed before exiting from the end of the seed and seed pod. Life cycle ranges from 5-12 weeks. This species is not reported from Hawaii (Nishida, 1994).
Mimosestes ulkei is a small two-tone grey beetle from the USA, first released in Australia in 1993. It has established at several release sites in Australia, though not nearly as readily as P. germaini. The life cycle and means of attack of this seed beetle is similar to that of P. germaini. Female beetles lay clusters of eggs in cracks and holes in seed pods. The larvae tunnel into seeds after hatching where they spend the rest of the developmental stage eating the living contents, preventing germination of that seed. Larvae pupate, and exit through the side of the seed, then out of the pod. Life cycle ranges from 5-12 weeks.
Rhinacloa callicrates was introduced into Queensland, Australia; under evaluation (Julien, 1992). It was imported from the USA, first released in Australia in 1989, and has established in Queensland, though it does not have a significant impact on P. aculeata (Starr et al., 2003).

Chemical Control

Control of mature trees and dense infestations is possible with herbicides, with basal bark or cut stump treatments usually giving better results than an overall spray (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Picloram + 2,4-D or triclopyr in diesel oil applied to the basal 75 cm of the trunk, completely circling it and thoroughly drenching the bark was effective, as were cut stump treatments, swabbing the whole of the butt with picloram, 2,4-D or triclopyr as basal bark sprays immediately after cutting (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992). Alternatively, hexazinone can be applied to the soil surface close to the base of the stems and when washed into the soil by subsequent rainfall slowly kills the shrubs. The severed aerial growth should be burned when dry.

Silviculture Characteristics

Parkinsonia aculeata is a small fast-growing, light-demanding tree most commonly used as a thorny hedge species, as a shade tree or an ornamental. In a hedgerow system lopping may provide leaf or pods for fodder when other foods are not available. Trees are browse-resistant, and withstand pruning and coppicing well.

Silviculture Characteristics

Tolerates > drought
Tolerates > waterlogging
Ability to > regenerate rapidly
Ability to > coppice
Ability to > pollard

Silviculture Practice

Propagation of P. aculeata is generally by seed, either direct-sown or nursery-grown. Seeding is prolific, and seed are widely available commercially and through governmental and non- governmental organizations. Pods are indehiscent, and have to be macerated in order to extract the seed.
Mahmoud and El-Sheikh (1981) noted two types of seed, light and darker seed. Light seed are water permeable and germinate freely, but dark seed require a sulphuric acid pre-treatment for 1 h at 25°C in order to become permeable and germinate rapidly. Germination rates are improved by cold water soaking for 3-6 days (Webb et al., 1984), by manual scarification or by limited hot water treatment and maceration (Stewart et al., 1992; Luna, 1996). Propagation is also reported by (root or shoot) cuttings or air-layering (Singh, 1989). After emergence, or after planting nursery-raised stock, the seedlings require less attention than those of many other species since they are both drought-and browse-resistant (Hocking, 1993), though Singh (1989) recommended protection from waterlogging, browsing animals and termites.

Silviculture Practice

Seed storage > orthodox
Vegetative propagation by > cuttings
Vegetative propagation by > air layering
Vegetative propagation by > stump plants
Stand establishment using > direct sowing
Stand establishment using > planting stock

Management

Management strategies for P. aculeata are not well documented. Singh (1989) suggests that seedlings should be planted in pits 30 x 30 x 30 cm in size at the beginning of the rainy season. For hedging purposes the spacing is approximately 1.5-2 m between plants.

Genetic Resources and Breeding

Data from tree breeding and provenence trials for P. aculeata are lacking. The conservation status of the species, in terms of interspecific variation, has not been examined. The establishment of extensive weedy populations, ready regeneration from seed or coppice stumps, and abundance in its putative range suggests that the species is not at risk (Stewart et al., 1992). Natural hybrids have been described between P. aculeata and C. praecox, a thorny arid zone species with a disjunct distribution spanning the arid regions of tropical and subtropical North, and South America (Carter, 1974b; Hawkins, 1996). The hybrids, which are unarmed, have been identified as a potential new agroforestry species (Hughes, 1989), although they may pose a novel and significant threat of weediness. P. aculeata is visited by large and small bees. Plants flower in the second or third growth season (Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992).

Disadvantages

Parkinsonia aculeata is not generally considered to produce particularly valuable or high quality products (Stewart et al., 1992), and it does not fix nitrogen (Sprent, 1986). The attractive characteristics of P. aculeata (performance under difficult or harsh environmental conditions; coppicing ability, pollarding response and resistance to browsing; plentiful production of seed) are those which are also problematic weedy characteristics (Hughes, 1994). Effective water dispersal of pods facilitates invasion of seasonally flooded land and of water courses. P. aculeata is considered a serious pest in Australia, where infestations degrade the best grazing land and prevent cattle from reaching water (Miller and Pickering, 1980; Wilson and Miller,1987; Parsons and Cuthbertson, 1992; Woods, 1992). In Northern Mexico, infestations choke irrigation systems (Hawkins, 1996). Since spontaneous populations are found wherever the species is introduced, the potential utility at any site must be weighed against the risk of infestation before P. aculeata is chosen for planting. Hybrids are known to often display increased weedy tendencies (Abbott, 1992), so novel hybrids of Parkinsonia should be utilized with particular care or avoided.

Links to Websites

NameURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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Published online: 27 June 2023

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Julissa Rojas-Sandoval

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