EPPO Global Database

EPPO Reporting Service no. 03 - 2008 Num. article: 2008/064

Invasive alien plants in China


China including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao is the third largest country in the world and covers five climatic zones: cold-temperate, temperate, warm-temperate, subtropical and tropical. China has a long history of introduction of non-native species.
Early introductions were associated with immigration and trade among different regions. In the 4th century BC, the Tamarind (Tamarinda indica, Fabaceae), originating from Africa, was introduced through the trade route linking China to India.
During the Han Dynasty (-206 BC to 220 AC), the Silk Road connected Asia to Europe (from the current Xi’an in China to Syria). Messengers from this dynasty brought back seeds from plants of economic importance: grapevine (Vitis vinifera, Vitaceae), alfalfa (Medicago sativa, Fabaceae), common pomegranate (Punica granatum, Punicaceae), and safflower (Carthamus tinctorius, Asteraceae). All except Vitis vinifera have escaped into the wild in Western China. The Tang Dynasty (618-907) was particularly involved with the import of exotic goods from almost every Asian nation.
During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Quanzhou and Guanzhou became ports that connect China with Southeast Asian countries.
In 1645, Western Europeans arriving in India and in Southeast Asia by the “Gama Sea Route” introduced species newly collected in America. The Chinese brought back plants of economic importance from the Americas such as sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas, Convolvulaceae), tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum, Solanaceae), and blue passionflower (Passiflora coerulea, Passifloraceae). They also unintentionally introduced Bidens bipinnata (Asteraceae).
During the Dutch occupation of Taiwan (1624-1662), some American species such as Leucaena leucocephala (Fabaceae) and Acacia farnesiana (Fabaceae) were introduced into Taiwan and naturalized.
After the Opium war in 1842, many weeds were introduced through ports. Indeed, Conyza bonariensis (Asteraceae) was first recorded in 1857, Conyza canadensis (Asteraceae) in 1862 and Erigeron annuus (Asteraceae) in 1886. These species subsequently became invasive in the wild. Other plants were introduced through a variety of pathways. For instance, Ulex europaeus (Fabaceae) was introduced by a French missionary and then escaped into the wild.

Owing to its rapid economic development, including explosive growth in trade and transport systems, China will have to deal with invasive alien plants (currently in lag phase) present on its territory, as well as to invasive alien plants to be introduced in the future. Invasive alien plants have been reported all over China, except in a few remote reserves in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, in the Hengduan Mountains, in Xinjiang and in Inner Mongolia.
Current invasive alien plants in China presented in this report are defined as invasive according to the following criteria (following the definition of the Convention on Biological Diversity):
  • the exotic species has been introduced through human activities
  • it has naturalized in either cultivated or uncultivated ecosystems
  • it has caused obvious changes in cultivated or uncultivated ecosystems.

Each species has been checked against the Global Compendium of Weeds (GCW) in order to indicate its invasive behaviour elsewhere in the world, as well as in Flora Europaea, Invasive Plant Species of the World, the DAISIE and EPPO databases to determine its occurrence within the EPPO region. This later information remains only indicative, and “/” indicates that no further information could be found.

Species and Family
Origin
Situation in China
GCW
Situation EPPO
Ageratina adenophora (= Eupatorium adenophorum = E. cannabinum) (Asteraceae)
C-Am.
This poisonous plant inhibits growth of plants and may even kill local plants and domestic animals. It spread from Myanmar to Southern Yunnan along roads in the 1940s. It is now widespread in South-Western China, and covers 247,000 km² in Yunnan.
W, AW, EW
Whole EPPO region
Ageratum conyzoides (Asteraceae)
Mexico
This plant is widely distributed in the tropical areas of the Eastern Hemisphere. It was first recorded in 1861 in Hong Kong, was then found in the Southern Yunnan Province in the late 19th century. It is now widespread in lowlands, mountains, hills and plains in the Yangtze Drainage basin and further South.
W, NW, AW, EW
Madeira (PT)
Ageratum houstonianum (Asteraceae)
N-Am.
This plant was introduced for ornamental purposes in Southern China, where it escaped in the wild.
W, NW, AW, EW
Madeira (PT), ES, casual in many countries
Alternanthera paronychioides (Amaranthaceae)
Trop. Am.
Reported in Wenchang in Hainan and Qi’ao Island in Guangdong Province and in Changhua and Pingtung in Taiwan.
W
Casual in BE
Alternanthera philoxeroides
(Amaranthaceae) (EPPO Alert List)
Brazil
Introduced to Shanghai and Eastern China in the 1940s. Since the 50s, it has been introduced as a pig forage in Southern China, and it escaped into the wild. In 1986, a survey showed that the species covered more than 130,000 km² and was a major weed of vegetable crops, sweet potato fields and citrus orchards.
W, SW, NW, AW, EW
FR, IT
Alternanthera pungens (Amaranthaceae)
C-Am.
Recently introduced in coastal and open areas of Xiamen in Fujian Province and Changjiang in Hainan Province. This species is a troublesome weed because of its flowers’ bristles.
W
ES, IL
Amaranthus albus (Amaranthaceae)
N-Am.
First recorded in 1935, and established in North and North-East China.
W, NW, AW, EW
Whole Eur.
Amaranthus blitoides (Amaranthaceae)
N-Am.
First reported in Liaoning in 1875 and then in Beijing, established in North and North-East China.
W, NW, AW
C and S Eur.
Amaranthus retroflexus (Amaranthaceae)
Trop. Am.
Widely distributed.
W, NW, AW, EW
Whole Eur., only casual in the N.
Amaranthus spinosus (Amaranthaceae)
Trop. Am.
Widely distributed.
W, AW, EW
ES, IT, Madeira (PT)
Amaranthus viridis (Amaranthaceae)
Trop. Af.
Widely distributed.
W, AW, EW
S-Eur.
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (Asteraceae)
(EPPO List of IAP)
N-Am.
It was first collected in Hangzhou (Jiangsu Province) in 1935. By 1989, it expanded its range and was present in 12 provinces.
W, NW, AW, EW
C and S Eur.
Ambrosia trifida (Asteraceae)

This species invaded North-East China in the 1950s. By 1989, it spread and was present in 12 provinces.
W, NW, AW, EW
S-Eur.
Chenopodium ambrosioides
(Chenopodiaceae)
Trop. Am.
First collected in Tamsui, Taipei in Taiwan in 1864, has spread on road sides. It is a weed in the Hong Kong region and is now widely distributed in tropical and sub-tropical areas.
W, AW, EW
W, C, S-Eur.
Chromolaena odorata (Asteraceae)
C-Am.
This plant was cultivated in Thailand in the early 1920s. It was present in Southern Yunnan in the early 1930s. It is now spreading in Yunnan, Guangxi and Hainan Provinces.
W, NW, AW, EW
/
Conyza bonariensis (Asteraceae)
S-Am.
This plant was first collected in Hong Kong in 1857 and rapidly spread to Guangdong and Shanghai, and was reported in Chongqing in 1887. It occurs primarily South of the Yangtze River and does not seem to adapt well to the dry and cold climate of Northern China.
W, AW
S-Eur.
Conyza canadensis (Asteraceae)
N-Am.
It was first collected in Yantai, Shandong Province, in 1860. Today, it is present across China.
W, NW, AW
Whole Eur.
Conyza floribunda (= C. sumatrensis) (Asteraceae)
S-Am.
It occurs primarily South of the Yangtze River and does not seem to adapt well to the dry and cold climate of Northern China.
W, AW
S-Eur.
Eichhornia crassipes (Pontederiaceae)
(EPPO Alert List)
S-Am.
This plant was intentionally introduced into many areas of China as forage for domestic animals, for ornamental purposes, and to purify wastewater. Since its initial introduction in 1901, the species has spread widely in tropical and subtropical areas, particularly in Southern and South-Western China. In 1994, about 10;km² of Dianchi Lake in Yunnan Province - one of China's most famous and beautiful lakes - were completely covered by dense mats of this plant. The rapid spread of this weed has resulted in great economic losses to fisheries and tourism, as well as a reduction in native aquatic plants and threats to local biodiversity.
W, SW, NW, AW, EW
ES, IL, PT
Erigeron annuus (Asteraceae)
N-Am.
This plant was first collected in Shanghai in 1886. It is now found throughout most of China and is common in both temperate and subtropical regions.
W, AW
S and C-Eur.
Erigeron philadelphicus (Asteraceae)
N-Am.
This species was introduced after 1886 in China, and is now spreading in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai.
W, AW
Corse (FR), UK, casual in other countries
Lantana camara (Verbenaceae)
Trop. Am.
Introduced from Spain to Taiwan at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it spread throughout Southern China.
W, NW, AW, EW
Azores (ES), ES, IT, Baleares (ES), Canarias (ES), Corse (FR), Madeira (PT)
Lolium temulentum (Poaceae)
Eur.
This plant is a common weed in wheat fields in Europe and is consequently often found as a contaminant in grain consignments. It was first found in imported wheat from Bulgaria in 1954. By 1957, the species was established in Heilongjiang Province. By 1961, its range had expanded to 45 counties. The species was subsequently found in imported wheat from Australia, the USA, Canada, Argentina, France, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Egypt and the Netherlands. It has now invaded crop fields throughout most of China and is reported from all provinces and regions of China except Tibet and Taiwan. Its seeds are sometimes infested by a fungus which makes it poisonous to people and domestic animals.
W, NW, AW, EW
Indigenous in Eur.
Mikania micrantha (Asteraceae)
S-Am.
This species was first introduced into Malaysia and then spread to all of Southeast Asia. It climbs trees, blocks sunshine and then kills the trees. Its seeds are spread by wind and can reach remote areas and islands.
It has been found in Hainan and South of Guangdong (Zhanjiang, Yangjiang, Taishan, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong) in the late 1980s where it dominates large areas.
It was first found in 1997 in the Futian national nature reserve located in the Neilingding Island in Shenzhen (Guangdong Province). After two years, it covered 40-60% of the total area, killed local plants in large numbers, threatening over 600 macaques living in the nature reserve.
W, SW, NW, AW, EW
/
Opuntia ficus-indica (Cactaceae)
Mexico
Introduced into Taiwan by the Dutch in 1645. It naturalized in South-Western China (including the South-East of Tibet) in dry and hot valleys.
W, NW, AW, EW
Medit.















Opuntia monacantha (Cactaceae)
S-Am.
Reported in Yunnan in 1625. Today, the species is widely present in Yunnan, Guangxi, Guangdong, Fujian and Taiwan.
W, NW, AW, EW
Medit.
Opuntia stricta var. dillenii (Cactaceae)
Coastal areas of the Caribbean
Introduced into Taiwan by the Dutch in 1645. It invaded large areas of coastal Southern China on dry and stony soils.
W, NW, AW, EW
Medit.
Plantago aristata (Plantaginaceae)
N-Am.
This species was first found in Qingdao (Shandong Province) in 1929, where it is now a widespread weed. It occurs on coasts, beaches, along roadsides, on hills and grasslands of the Jiangsu Province.
W, NW, AW, EW
Present in Eur.
Plantago virginica (Plantaginaceae)
N-Am.
This species was first collected in Nanchang in Jiangxi Province in 1951 and now occurs in grasslands and along roadsides and lake shores in the Southern part of Jiangsu Province and in Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and the North of Taiwan.
W, AW
FR
Solanum aculeatissimum (Solanaceae)
Trop. Areas of S-Am.
Some naturalized specimens were collected in Guizhou at the end of the 19th century, but the species may have been introduced earlier as an ornamental plant. It is a common weed South of the Yangtze River, its poisonous fruits are potentially lethal to cattle. S. erianthum, S. torvum and S. laciniatum are also naturalized in China.
W, AW
/
Solidago altissima (Asteraceae)
N-Am.
This plant was introduced from Japan to Taipei in Taiwan in 1935 as an ornamental plant. It was subsequently introduced into Shanghai and Lushan in Jiangxi, and has become wild in these regions. In Shanghai, it is now found in suburbs along the Kunshan-Shanghai railway, and in Pudong and Qingpu.
The species reproduces prolifically by seeds and also spreads by rootstocks. It outcompetes other plants and has become a dominant species in many areas. It is particularly aggressive in disturbed areas, such as suburban wastelands, roadsides, river banks, and in residential and industrial areas and is spreading from such areas into surrounding orchards, arable crops, and vegetable fields, especially in Shanghai.
W, AW
/
Solidago canadensis (Asteraceae)
(EPPO List of IAP)
N-Am.
This plant is naturalized in Shanghai, Wuhan and Lushan.
W, AW, EW
Whole Eur.
Solidago graminifolia (Asteraceae)
N-Am.
This species was introduced into the Lushan Botanic Garden from which it begun to invade local ecosystems.
W, AW, EW
W and C-Eur.
Spartina anglica (Poaceae)

This species is a hybrid of S. alterniflora and S. patens, originating from Western Europe. It was introduced on the coast of the Jiangsu Province from Denmark, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom in 1963 to protect banks from erosion and to improve soils. The species was also used for forage and for paper-making materials. Over the next 20 years, the species was widely cultivated North of Jingxi, in Niaoning and South of Guangxi, covering more than 300 km². It has become a predominant species in many of these regions, outcompeting other plants and threatening native plants.
W, NW, EW
Indigenous in GB, invasive in W-Eur.
Triodanis biflora (Campanulaceae)
N and S Am.
The species was first found in Anqing (Anhui Province) in 1981, and subsequently in Zhejiang, Fujiang and Northern Taiwan in the mid-1980s.
W
/
Triodanis perfoliata (Campanulaceae)
N and C Am.
It was first reported in the Wuyi mountain in 1974, and then in various places in Fujian Province in the 1980s. It grows along streams, in grasslands and on hills at elevations between 180 and 1000 m.
W
/
* Abbreviations for the Global Compendium of Weeds column:
W: weed; SW: sleeper weed; NW: noxious weed; AW: Agricultural Weed; EW: Environmental Weed.

All the species quoted as invasive in China, except Lolium temulentum, originate from the Americas. When present in the EPPO region, these species are often considered invasive as well. With the increase in trade between China and other countries, it is to be expected that new invasive species will also enter.
The following species would deserve particular attention since they represent an emerging risk for the EPPO region considering their climatic suitability and their limited distributed or absence in the EPPO region: Alternanthera pungens, Mikania micrantha, Plantago aristata and Solidago altissima.

Sources

A Global Compendium of Weeds http://www.hear.org/gcw/alpha_select_gcw.htm
Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe (DAISIE). http://www.europe-aliens.org/
Tutin TG, Heywood VH, Burges NA, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM and Webb DA (1964/80) Flora Europeaea, Vol 1-5. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (GB).
Weber, E (2003) Invasive Plant Species of the World. CABI Publishing Wallingford, (GB) pp. 548.
Xie L, LI Z, William PG, Li D (2000) Invasive species in China – An overview. Biodiversity and Conservation 10(8), 1317-1341.
http://www.chinabiodiversity.com/shwdyx/technical-report-e/x-1e.htm