Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER)

  [   PIER species lists  ]   [   PIER home  ]

Piper auritum
Kunth, Piperaceae
Click on an image for links to BIGGER PICTURES


Present on Pacific Islands?  yes

Primarily a threat at high elevations?  no

Risk assessment results:  Reject, score: 15 (Go to the risk assessment)

Common name(s): [more details]

English: ainse pepper, eared pepper, false kava, false sakau, Hawaiian sakau, root beer plant, Vera Cruz pepper

Pohnpeian: sakau likamw

Samoan: ‘ava Tonga

Spanish: anisillo, cordoncillo, hierba santa, hinojo, hoja de la estrella, hoja santa, sabalero, Santa María

Tongan: kava Hawai‘i

Habit:  shrub

Description:  "A small, soft wooded, commonly more or less aromatic tree, 3-6 m tall; flowering internodes moderately sender and long, striate, often drying black, glabrate or sometimes slightly pubescent; leaves ovate, oblong- or elliptic-ovate, or rarely subovate, 12-20 cm wide x 30-30 cm long or up to 25 x 40 cm or more, apex acute or short-acuminate, base deeply cordate with one side 1-2 cm longer at the petiole and with the lower lobe longer, sinus rounded, the midrib with 3 or 4 up-curved branches from below the upper third and 3 or 4 branches from the base, rather thinly short-hairy above, at least along the nerves, more densely so beneath, densely white ciliolate throughout, drying thin, translucent; petiole 4-9 plus 1-2 cm long, more or less pubescent or glabrate, vaginate-winged to the blade; spikes creamy or light-yellow when dry, 3-5 mm thick X 10-25 cm or sometimes more long; peduncle slender, 2-8 cm long, glabrate, often black when dry; bracts round- or triangular-subpeltate, marginally fringed; fruit small, glabrate, obpyramidal-trigonous; stigmas 3, sessile.  The thin, deeply and inequilaterally cordate leaves which are more or less pubescent on both sides and densely ciliolate, long, blackening peduncles, and comparatively small, yellowish spikes distinguish this species.  The leaves vary considerably in size"  (Trelease, 1950; pp. 133-134).

"Soft-wooded aromatic shrub 1-2 m or tree to 6 m high; leaves ovate to ovate-elliptical, acute or subacuminate, 20-30 (-40) cm long, 12-20 (-25) cm broad, the margin densely white-ciliate; spikes whitish to light yellow, pendulous, 10-25 cm or more long, 3-5 mm thick, fruit 3-gonous"  (Adams, 1972; p. 212).

"A common succulent herb, Piper auritum has broadly ovate to oblong-ovate leaves with deeply chordate, unequal bases supported on heavy winged petioles that clasp the stem.  Large, thin, soft leaf blades are pinnately veined, with a few lateral veins.  Opposite the leaves stand the single, straight, simple spikes of numerous tiny, pale green flowers.  The straight spike of flowers and the winged petiole on the leaves distinguish this Piper from P. aduncum"  (Mason and Mason, 1987; pp. 292-294).

"Easily recognized by the thin leaves of unusual form with a dense margin of short hairs along the edge and the sarsaparilla-like odor when crushed"  (Berger, 1971; 104-105).

Habitat/ecology:  Among Costa Rica's ninety-four species of pipers, Piper auritum (Piperaceae) is easily recognized by its large (20-50 cm) leaves unequally lobed at the base, its preference for open to partly shaded secondary growth, and the very characteristic sarsaparilla or anise-like odor of crushed leaves.  In Costa Rica the species ranges from near sea level to about 1,500 (rarely 2,000) m elevation in evergreen and partly deciduous formations or in wet sites in the deciduous formations of Guanacaste.  The species ranges from Mexico to Colombia and appears to be quite uniform throughout this range with no evidence of subspecific or varietal differentiation."

These plants grow to about 6 m in height with a single main stem that often has small prop roots near the base.  The large leaves are borne in two alternate ranks and are often held horizontally on horizontal upper branches, thus forming a broad light-intercepting crown with relatively few large leaves.  Piper auritum appears to be a fast-growing, relatively short-lived, treelet of early successional habitats (cf. Gomez Pompa, 1971).  When found in a forest, it is never found in dark, deeply shaded sites but rather grows in areas that have an opening in the canopy or are fairly well illuminated.  The flowers are very small and tightly packed in long, slender arching or drooping spikes borne opposite the leaves. The fruits are very small (less than 1 mm) and tightly packed on the spike.  The fruits of this species and many other pipers are known to be eaten by bats, which play the major role in seed dispersal (Janzen, D. 1978).

"Piper auritum is sometimes encountered in fairly large even-age stands, dominating smaller secondary growth.  But the species may also be very scattered, with only isolated individuals in a given area.  This patch distribution (despite its status as a very common second-growth species) is a common pattern in a small tropical country that boasts almost half as many species of flowering plants as the entire United States" (Berger, 1983).

"A very common species of forest edges and open sites between sea level and 1,200 m elevation and occasionally as high as 2,000 m.  Found in all the moister areas of Costa Rica and in moist situations (stream beds) in the deciduous forest areas of Guanacaste"  (Berger, 1971; 104-105).

Propagation:  Seed, possibly spread by birds and bats; suckers profusely.

Native range:  Mexico, Central America, northern South America and the West Indies.

Presence:

Pacific
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
Federated States of Micronesia
Pohnpei Islands
Pohnpei Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Waterhouse, Barbara (year unknown) (p. Voucher specimen)
Voucher: BMW 5781 (BISH, BRI, GUAM)
Federated States of Micronesia
Pohnpei Islands
Pohnpei Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Herrera, Katherine/Lorence, David H./Flynn, Timothy/Balick, Michael J. (2010) (p. 123)
Voucher cited: B.M. Waterhouse BMW5781 (BISH, BRI, GUAM, PTBG)
Invasive
Federated States of Micronesia
Pohnpei Islands
Pohnpei Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Space, Jim (2004)
Cultivated and naturalizing. Eradication activity underway.
Federated States of Micronesia
Pohnpei Islands
Pohnpei Island   Bishop Museum (Honolulu) (2000) (voucher ID: BISH 687691)
Taxon name on voucher: Piper auritum Kunth
Federated States of Micronesia
Pohnpei Islands
Pohnpei Island   Bishop Museum (Honolulu) (2000) (voucher ID: BISH 687692)
Taxon name on voucher: Piper auritum Kunth
Federated States of Micronesia
Pohnpei Islands
Pohnpei Island   National Tropical Botanical Garden (U.S.A. Hawaii. Kalaheo.) (2000) (voucher ID: PTBG 36978)
Taxon name on voucher: Piper auritum Kunth
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Hawai‘i (Big) Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Parker, James L./Parsons, Bobby (2012) (p. 71)
Voucher cited: J. Parker & R. Parsons BIED151 (BISH)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Kaua‘i Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Staples, George W./Herbst, Derral R./Imada, Clyde T. (2006) (p. 8)
Voucher cited: D.H. Lorence & B. Stevens 8521 (BISH)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
Maui Island introduced
invasive
Starr, Forest/Starr, Kim (2011) (pp. 29-30)
East Maui. Voucher cited: Starr & Starr 001212-02 (BISH)
State of Hawaii
Hawaiian Islands
O‘ahu Island introduced
invasive
cultivated
Staples, George W./Herbst, Derral R./Imada, Clyde T. (2006) (p. 8)
Vouchers cited: T. Takemoto s.n. (BISH 712562), N. Matayoshi s.n. (BISH 713184), N. Matayoshi s.n. (BISH 713196)
Samoa
Western Samoa Islands
Savai‘i Island introduced
invasive
Space, James C./Flynn, Tim (2002) (p. 10)
Samoa
Western Samoa Islands
Upolu Island introduced
invasive
Space, James C./Flynn, Tim (2002) (p. 10)
Voucher: Flynn 6940 (PTBG, US, SAMOA)
Samoa
Western Samoa Islands
Upolu Island   National Tropical Botanical Garden (U.S.A. Hawaii. Kalaheo.) (2002) (voucher ID: PTBG 41365)
Taxon name on voucher: Piper auritum Kunth
Tonga
Ha‘apai Group
Ha‘ano Island introduced
invasive
Space, James C./Flynn, Tim (2001) (p. 8)
Voucher: Flynn 6872 (PTBG, AD)
Tonga
Ha‘apai Group
Ha‘ano Island   National Tropical Botanical Garden (U.S.A. Hawaii. Kalaheo.) (2001) (voucher ID: PTBG 238)
Taxon name on voucher: Piper auritum
Tonga
Ha‘apai Group
Lifuka and Foa Islands introduced
invasive
Space, James C./Flynn, Tim (2001) (p. 8)
Tonga
Ha‘apai Group
‘Uiha Island introduced
invasive
Space, James C./Flynn, Tim (2001) (p. 8)
Tonga
Tongatapu Group
‘Eua Island introduced
invasive
Space, James C./Flynn, Tim (2001) (p. 8)
Tonga
Tongatapu Group
Tongatapu Island introduced
invasive
Space, James C./Flynn, Tim (2001) (p. 8)
Voucher: Flynn 6818 (PTBG, AD, BISH, US)
Tonga
Tongatapu Group
Tongatapu Island   Bishop Museum (Honolulu) (2001) (voucher ID: BISH 687361)
Taxon name on voucher: Piper auritum Kunth
Tonga
Tongatapu Group
Tongatapu Island   National Tropical Botanical Garden (U.S.A. Hawaii. Kalaheo.) (2001) (voucher ID: PTBG 254)
Taxon name on voucher: Piper auritum
Tonga
Vava‘u Group
Vava‘u Island introduced
invasive
Space, James C./Flynn, Tim (2001) (p. 8)
Voucher: Flynn 6846 (PTBG, AD)
Tonga
Vava‘u Group
Vava‘u Island   National Tropical Botanical Garden (U.S.A. Hawaii. Kalaheo.) (2001) (voucher ID: PTBG 263)
Taxon name on voucher: Piper auritum
Pacific Rim
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
Colombia
Colombia
Colombia (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Guatemala
Guatemala
Guatemala (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Honduras
Honduras
Honduras (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Mexico
Mexico
Mexico (United Mexican States) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Nicaragua
Nicaragua
Nicaragua (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Panama
Panama
Panama (Republic of) native
U.S. Dept. Agr., Agr. Res. Serv. (2013)
Also reported from
Country/Terr./St. &
Island group
Location Cited status &
Cited as invasive &
Cited as cultivated &
Cited as aboriginal introduction?
Reference &
Comments
United States (continental except west coast)
United States (other states)
USA (Florida) probably introduced
U.S. Dept. Agr., Nat. Res. Cons. Serv. (2013)

Comments:  Very invasive in Tonga (Space & Flynn, 2001) and becoming so in Samoa (Space & Flynn, 2002).

Cultivated and naturalized in Cuba (GRIN).

Control: 

Physical:  "Difficult to control mechanically because the roots break when pulled"  (Englberger, 2009; p. 4).

Chemical:  "Tricopyr (Garlon 4) can be used as foliar application on young plants.  For older plants a cut-stem application with undiluted Garlon 4 can be used"  (Englberger, 2009; p. 4).


Need more info? Have questions? Comments? Information to contribute? Contact PIER! (pier@hear.org)

  [   PIER species lists  ]   [   PIER home  ]

This page was created on 1 JAN 1999 and was last updated on 21 OCT 2010.