Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Stinky Invasive

Skunk vine was originally introduced from Asia in the late 1800s. It was going to be used as a fiber crop but it was determined that its weedy properties were going to be harmful for the skunk vine to be used in this manner. It eventually became labeled as an invasive weed because of these weedy properties. The vine is woody and doesn’t contain thorns on its vine. It also has a characteristic stinky smell when it is crushed.

Skunk vine is capable of living in many different types of habitats and can grow very tall, sometimes actually growing up into the canopy of forests it has invaded. Because it is capable of living in many diverse habitats and because it can climb up trees and shrubs, skunk vine can climb up, engulf, and strangle native trees and shrubs. Skunk vine is also capable of reproducing vegitatively or through the use of seeds. Because of this property, it is hard to get rid of.

There have been many different efforts to try to get rid of skunk vine, including physical, chemical, and biological controls. When trying to get rid of this harmful weed, it is a big problem if even stem fragments get transported because new plants can start growing from these fragments. This is one property of skunk vine that aids it in its invasiveness.

There has been a recent discovery of a beetle that could possibly be used for biological control. This beetle, Himalusa thailandensis, was found in Thailand. It was actually found chowing down on a different species of skunk vine that is closely related to the two species that are now invading southern Florida. The way that this new beetle feeds on the skunk vine, it is very detrimental to the plant. Scientists are currently trying to figure out the biology and possible ecological effects of this beetle. They are trying to determine if this beetle would really be a good biological control for eliminating the skunk vine problem in southern Florida.

For some more information on the skunk vine, visit the following website: Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants


  1. I used to think that poison ivy was the worst invasive, but this might take the cake just because of its name. The method of using the beetle to control the weed makes me a little bit nervous because it is ultimately introducing another non-native species to the area that could potentially become a problem.

  2. Another good intention gone bad! Biocontrol has worked successfully in other cases (removing invasive cactus in Australia), so there is hope that it may also work in this case. I would guess that the stinky compounds have some interesting chemistry and biological effects.

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