Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

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Aerva javanica
(Burm. f) Juss. ex Schult., Amaranthaceae
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Present on Pacific Islands?  no

Primarily a threat at high elevations?  no

Other Latin names:  Aerva persica (Burm. f.) Merr.; Aerva tomentosa Forssk.; Iresine javanica Burm. f.

Common name(s): [more details]

English: aerva, kapok bush, pillow-weed, snow bush

Habit:  herb

Description:  "Perennial herb, frequently woody and suffruticose or growing in erect clumps, 0.3-1.5 m, branched from about the base with simple stems or the stems with long ascending branches.  Stem and branches terete, striate, more or less densely whitish- or yellowish-tomentose or pannose, when dense the indumentum often appearing tufted.  Leaves alternate, very variable in size and for, from narrowly linear to suborbicular, more or less densely whitish- or yellowish-tomentose but usually more thinly so and greener on the upper surface, margins plane or more or less involute (when strongly so the leaves frequently more or less falcate-recurved), sessile or with a short and indistinct petiole or the latter rarely to c. 2 cm in robust plants.  Flowers dioecious.  Spikes sessile, cylindrical, dense and stout (up to c. 10 x 1 cm), to slender and interrupted with lateral globose clusters of flowers and with some spikes apparently pedunculate by branch reduction; male plants always with more slender spikes (but plants with slender spikes may not be male); upper part of stem and branches leafless, the upper spikes thus forming terminal panicles; bracts 0.75-2.25 mm, broadly deltoid-ovate, hyaline, acute or obtuse with the obscure midrib ceasing below the apex, densely lanate throughout or only about the base or apex, persistent; bracteoles similar, also persistent.  Female flowers with outer 2 tepals 2-3 mm, oblong-obovate to obovate-spathulate, lanate, acute to obtuse or apiculate at the tip, the yellowish midrib ceasing well below the apex; inner 3 slightly shorter, elliptic-oblong, more or less densely lanate, acute, with a narrow green vitta along the midrib, which extends for about two-thirds the length of each tepal; style slender, distinct, with the two filiform, flexuose stigmas at least equaling it in length; filaments reduced, anthers absent.  Male flowers smaller, the outer tepals 1.5-2.25 mm, ovate; filaments delicate, the anthers about equaling the perianth; ovary small, style very short, stigmas rudimentary.  Utricle 1-1.5 mm, rotund, compressed.  Seed 0.9-1.25 mm, round, slightly compressed, brown or black, shining and smooth or very faintly reticulate" (Dassanayake, 1981; p. 31-32).

Habitat/ecology:  In Sri Lanka, "sandy places near the sea..., rare" (Dassanayake, 1981; p. 31-32).

Propagation:  Seed

Native range:  "Widespread in the drier parts of the tropics and subtropics of the Old World, from Burma, India and Ceylon westwards through S.W. Asia, across N. Africa to Morocco and south to Cape Verde Islands and Cameroun through Uganda and Tanzania to Madagascar.  Introduced in Australia and elsewhere"  (Dassanayake, 1981; p. 31-32).


Pacific Rim
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Australia (continental)
Australia (continental) introduced
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)

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This page was created on 13 APR 2005 and was last updated on 5 NOV 2011.