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      Cecropia peltata flowers  (Photo: © Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, 2003-2006) - Click for full size   Cecropia peltata flower cluster (Photo: © Tomas Pickering and Graham Wyatt, 2006) - Click for full size
    Taxonomic name: Cecropia peltata L.
    Synonyms: Ambaiba pelata Kuntze, Coilotapalus peltata Britton
    Common names: bois cannon (French), faux ricin (French), guarumo (Spanish), papyrus géant, parasolier (French), pisse-roux (French), pop-a-gun (English), snakewood tree (English), Trompetenbaum (German), trumpet tree (English), trumpet wood (English), yagrumo hembra (Spanish)
    Organism type: tree
    Cecropia peltata is a fast-growing, short-lived tree that grows in neotropical regions. It is light-demanding and rapidly invades disturbed areas, such as forest canopy gaps, roadsides, lava flows, agricultural sites, urban locations, and other disturbed areas. It naturally occurs in tropical Central and South America, as well as some Caribbean islands and has been introduced to Malaysia, Africa, and Pacific Islands. It may be replacing, or competing with, other native pioneer species in some locations.
    Cecropia peltata is a neotropical tree that reaches heights of 20 m or more. Its stems are hollow, partitioned at the nodes, and bear U-shaped leaf scars. Its leaves are alternate, long-lobed, ovate, somewhat pointed, about 10-50 cm wide, dark green and scaborous above and densley white-tomentose underneath. Its staminate inflorescence is an umbellate cluster of spikes 3-5.5 cm long, consisting of many individual tubular calyces with paired stamens, while its pistillate spikes are yellowish and 2-5.5 cm long, thick, and succulent when in fruit (PIER, 2009).
    Similar Species
    Cecropia schreberiana

    Occurs in:
    agricultural areas, natural forests, planted forests, ruderal/disturbed, urban areas
    Habitat description
    Cecropia peltata typically inhabits forest gaps and disturbed sites (PIER, 2009), such as, along roadsides, agricultural sites, lava flows, and urban locations (Binggeli, 1999). It is a fast growing, high light demanding, pioneer species that colonizes tree fall gaps in ts native range and is capable of establishing dense stands (PIER, 2009). It is known from altitudes of 50-2700 m (Hurtado & Alson, 1995). C. peltata requires much rainfall and may be found in environments with 990 mm to over 3,810 mm of annual percipitation. It grows in alluvial, colluvial, and residual soils neutral to acidic in nature. Soil texture may range from heavy clay to sandy, but a clay-loam soil is optimal. C. peltata is also generally found in warm climates ranging from montane to tropical with mean annual temperatures of 12-24°C (Silander & Lugo, undated).
    General impacts
    Cecropia peltata forms dense stands that may compete with or displace native pioneer species and reduce species richness (Bingelli, 1999; Dumont et al, 1990). Evidence suggests it competes with and may displace tropical African pioneer species Musanga cecropioides (Bingelli, 1999).
    Cecropia peltata is popularly cultivated as an ornamental species (Bodkin 1990 in Csurhes, 2008).
    Cecropia peltata L was distinguished from C. schreberiana Miq. in 1988. Whereas Cecropia peltata occurs in Mexico and Central America, C. schreberiana occurs in the Antilles and northern South America (Howard, 1988; ISTF, 1997 in Brokaw, 1998; Csuhres, 2008). However, ITIS does not distinguish between the species and, in fact, states Cecropia schreberiana as the valid name for the species and indicates C. peltata as a synonym for C. schreberiana.
    Geographical range
    Native range: Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela
    Known introduced range: Cameroon, Cote d`Ivoire (Ivory Coast), French Polynesia (Polynésie Française), Malaysia, New Caledonia, Zaire
    Introduction pathways to new locations
    For ornamental purposes:

    Local dispersal methods
    Consumption/excretion: Bats and birds eat large quantities of its succulent fruits and are the main seed disperser. In some locations fruits are consumed during the day, mainly by monkeys, and at night by bats and arboreal mammals (Bingelli, 1999)
    For ornamental purposes (local):
    Management information
    Preventative measures: A Risk Assessment of Cecropia peltata for Hawai‘i and other Pacific islands was prepared by Dr. Curtis Daehler (UH Botany) with funding from the Kaulunani Urban Forestry Program and US Forest Service. The alien plant screening system is derived from Pheloung et al. (1999) with minor modifications for use in Pacific islands (Daehler et al. 2004). The result is a score of 9 and a recommendation of: "Likely to cause significant ecological or economic harm in Hawai‘i and on other Pacific Islands as determined by a high WRA score, which is based on published sources describing species biology and behavior in Hawai‘i and/or other parts of the world."

    Physical: Hand pulling or digging out seedlings and young trees is recommended (PIER, 2009).

    Chemical: Larger trees should be cut and their stumps should be treated with herbicide (PIER, 2009).

    Biological control: C. peltata has been found to be attacked by Historis spp. and various moth species and is sometimes extensively defoliated (Bingelli et al, 1998).

    Cecropia peltata is dioecious and becomes sexually mature in 3 to 5 years. Its tiny flowers are clustered on 5 to 10 cm long spikes and are wind-pollinated. On female spikes the minute one-seeded fruits form large fruit clusters which appear to take around a month to mature. A spike contains around 800 viable seeds which are about 1.9 mm long and weigh 1.6 mg. Bats and birds eat large quantities of the succulent fruits and are the main seed disperser. In Costa Rica a similar amount of fruits are consumed during the day, mainly by monkeys, and at night by bats and arboreal mammals. A large and persistent seedbank is formed in the forest soil (Bingelli, 1999). In some locations flowering and fruiting occur year-round and in others it it seasonal with a peak in either the wet or the dry season depending on location (Silander & Lugo, undated; Bingelli, 1999). C. peltata is highly productive and seed production is estimated to be as high as 1 million seeds per year (Silander & Lugo, undated)
    Lifecycle stages
    Seeds of Cecropia peltata require full sunlight for successful germination and with those conditions may be as high as 80-90%. Seedling leaves are pubescent on both sides, lanceolate, unlobed, and finely toothed. Seedlings are also very light demanding and seedling mortality in natural conditions is typically very high. It has been found that 99% of seedlings in forest openings die in the first year. C. peltata grows rapidly reaching 10-15 cm in height in 10 weeks and up to about 2 m in the first year. Reproductive maturity is reached by pistillate trees in 3-4 years and by staminate trees in 4-5 years. Maturation is dependant on allocation of resources for rapid initial height growth and factors such as the height of and proximity to surrounding vegetation with trees in open environments maturing faster than those in forest gaps. C. peltata usually reaches canopy height in about 10 years and its estimated life span is 30 years (Silander & Lugo, undated).
    This species has been nominated as among 100 of the "World's Worst" invaders
    Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
    Last Modified: Wednesday, 23 February 2011

ISSG Landcare Research NBII IUCN University of Auckland