Bladderflower [Araujia sericifera Brot.][Bayer code: none][CDFA list: B] Photographs Map of Distribution

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SYNONYMS:common moth-vine, moth catcher, Araujia sericofera Brot. (orthographic error), Araujia albens (Martius) Don, Physianthus albens Martius, Araujia hortorum Fourn., Schubertia albens.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:Fast-growing noxious perennial vine with milky juice. Plants often thrive in citrus groves, competing with trees for water, nutrients, and light. Plants grow extremely fast. Vines can grow over tree canopies within a couple of years and kill individual branches by girdling. Significant infestations reduce fruit yields and interfere with tree maintenance. Introduced from Central South America (Peru) as an ornamental.

SEEDLINGS:No description available.

MATURE PLANT:Stems twining, slender, woody, sometimes branched, typically less than 12 m (40 ft) long, +/- glabrous but new growth covered with short white hairs. Leaves opposite, narrowly triangular, bases truncate to slightly lobed (cordate), 5-12 cm long, 2-6 cm wide, spaced 7-18 cm along stems, evergreen or partially deciduous in cooler climates. Upper surfaces glabrous, glossy dark green. Lower surfaces gray-green, minutely pitted, densely covered with minute hairs. Petioles 1.5-3 cm long.

ROOTS and UNDERGROUND STRUCTURES:Not described as rhizomatous, but under certain conditions severed pieces of underground stems or crowns can produce new roots and shoots.

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FLOWERS:Summer. Flower clusters (cymes) 2-10-flowered, develop from just below leaf axils. Flowers fragrant, waxy white, 2-3 cm long, ~ 1-2 cm wide. Petals fused, 5-lobed, bell- to funnel-shaped. Sepals 5, fused near the base, green, erect, leaf-like. Stamens fused into a filament column with appendages and anther head. Appendages separate, solid with convex margins. Insect pollinated.

FRUITS and SEEDS:Pods narrowly ovoid, pendant, 8-15 cm long, 4-5 cm in diameter, pale gray-green, open to release numerous seeds at maturity. Seed dark brown to black, narrowly ovate to elliptic, 5-6 mm long, with numerous silky white, deciduous hairs attached at the apex (coma). Surface minutely reticulate and sporadically tubercled.

HABITAT:Citrus groves, orchards, landscaped areas, gardens, disturbed sites. Tolerates poor, wet, or dry soils and light to moderate frosts.

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DISTRIBUTION:Uncommon. North Coast Ranges (Mendocino, Sonoma cos.), San Francisco Bay region, Central Valley (especially Sacramento and Fresno cos.), South Coast Ranges, South Coast region (especially Ventura, sw San Bernardino, nw Riverside, ne Orange cos.); Florida. To 400 m (1300 ft).

PROPAGATION/PHENOLOGY:Reproduces by seed and vegetatively from severed underground stems or crowns. Stems can grow 6-9 m (20-30 ft) in one season. Seeds disperse with wind. Seed production is prolific, except in areas where temperatures drop below freezing in early fall. Seed viability is typically high (~90%), but longevity is undocumented. Plants produce seed the first season.

MANAGEMENT FAVORING/DISCOURAGING SURVIVAL:Improper discing can severe and disperse underground stems or crowns of mature plants, producing new vines. Young seedlings do not tolerate light cultivation.

SIMILAR SPECIES:There are a few native vines in the milkweed family (Cynanchum, Matelea, Sarcostemma species). Unlike bladderflower, the native vines grow in desert habitats and have flowers less than 1 cm long.

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Bladderflower is a fast growing perennial vine introduced from South America. It is primarily found in citrus groves, orchards, and disturbed areas. Severe infestations may cause extensive losses by girdling tree branches and forming a dense canopy in the treetops, which increases competition for light, and reduces yields. Twining vines may also interfere with pruning practices. Seed production is prolific and viability may be greater than 90%. Seeds germinate in the spring and may produce a 20-30 ft vine the first year. Vines are capable of blooming in late summer and producing viable seed the first year. Seed dispersal is aided by two factors: the height of release from the canopy crown, and the long tuft of silky hairs attached to the seed apex. Both facilitate wind dispersal, a characteristic typical of many milkweeds in the Asclepiadaceae. There is very little information on the control of bladderflower. Eliminating seed production is critical to prevent rapid spread. Severing the vines at the base during early flowering may be effective. However, established vines resprout from the crown, and possibly from roots and underground stems. Tillage effectively controls seedlings, but may also spread severed roots to new areas. Tillage equipment should be cleaned after use in infested areas. There is little information on effective herbicides for bladderflower control. Spot treatments of glyphosate (2% v/v) to young resprouts have been effective for controlling other milkweeds. However, retreatment may be necessary for complete root kill. The most effective timing for treatment is during the bud to early flowering stage.

Bellue, M. K. 1948. Bladderflower, Araujia sericifera Brot., An escaped ornamental in California. California Dept. Agr. Bull. 37:20-22.
Forster, P. I. and Bruyns, P. V. 1992. Clarification of synonomy for the common moth-vine Araujia sericifera (Asclepiadaceae). Taxon 41:746-749.
Spellman, D. L. and Gunn, C. R. 1976. Morrenia odorata and Araujia sericofera (Asclepiadaceae). Castanea 41:139-148.

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