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Fimbristylis littoralis (lesser fimbristylis)

Summary of Invasiveness

F. littoralis is a tufted leafy annual or short-lived herb (sedge) included in the Global
Compendium of Weeds where it is listed as an agricultural and environmental weed (Randall,
2012). It has escaped from cultivation and become established along waterways and wetlands
(Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014). The species is of particular concern in rice
plantations around the world (Holm et al., 1977). It shows allelopathic activity and once
established it can change features of ecosystem functions including hydrological cycles,
biophysical dynamics, nutrient cycles, and community composition (Holm et al., 1977; Holou
et al., 2013).
Taxonomic Tree
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Spermatophyta
Subphylum: Angiospermae
Class: Monocotyledonae
Order: Cyperales
Family: Cyperaceae
Genus: Fimbristylis
Species: Fimbristylis littoralis

Description

Annual or perennial tufted, erect sedge with fibrous root system; culms slender, 40-60 cm
tall, four- or five-angled and often somewhat flattened; leaves 1.5-2.5 mm wide, up to 40 cm
long, basal leaves half as long as culm, linear, threadlike and stiff, two-ranked, with sheaths;
leaf bract shorter than inflorescence; inflorescence a rather lax and diffuse compound umbel,
6-10 cm long, spikelets globose or ovate, 2.5-4 mm long, 1.5-2 mm wide, round or acute at
apex, reddish brown, the lower scales fall early; stigmas three-branched, rarely in a few
flowers two-branched; anthers yellow; glumes ovate, brown, about 1 mm long, spirally
arranged, membraneous, obtuse or acute, the green midvein or keel broad.
Achenes obovoid, trigonous, biconvex, and apiculate at apex, 0.6-1 0.75 mm, pale ivory to
brown, reticulate, and verrucose.

Seedlings
The leaf-sheath is closed at the base and the plant is often, though not always, laterally
compressed (flat in cross-section) and smooth without hairs throughout (glabrous). Young
leaves are triangular and no more than 0.5 mm wide. Two nearly equal angles form a short
side and the third acute angle maintains an overall flat cross-section. There is about 0.5 mm
of a jagged, almost toothed edge at the hyaline top of a membrane that extends down the leaf
sheath. The first two leaves are narrower than later leaves and are 5-10 mm long. These
recurve toward the soil and atrophy quickly. Each succeeding leaf that grows is stronger
(after Zimdahl et al., 1989).
Distribution

There is lack of agreement on the origin of this species complex. According to Haines and
Lye (1983), F. miliacea (sensu stricto) has an Asian origin. Other authors such as Waterhouse
(1993a) and Holm et al. (1979) indicate that the complex originates in tropical America. What
is clear is that the F. littoralis/miliacea complex as a whole is now common throughout the
tropics, occurring wherever rice is grown in Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Pacific and the
Caribbean area (Holm et al., 1977).
The species has been listed as either native or introduced by different authorities for a number
of countries and regions. For example, USDA-ARS (2014) lists it as introduced in Brazil,
while Alves et al. (2014) list the species as a synonym of Fimbristylis miliaceae which they
consider native to Brazil.
History of Introduction and Spread

The origin of F. littoralis is still uncertain and it is therefore difficult to establish its history of
introduction. In the West Indies, it was probably introduced as a contaminant during the last
part of the nineteenth century. In Puerto Rico it was first collected in 1886 in Yabucoa (US
National Herbarium).
Habitat

F. littoralis occurs in damp, open waste places where it may not establish itself well in
submerged conditions but may compete heavily following germination during dry periods or
during low water conditions (Holm et al., 1991). F. littoralis has posed serious problems in
paddy rice in recent years, and is recorded as dominant in the coastal and inland transplanted
ricefields around the river Muda in Malaysia (Holm et al., 1991). It is also common on
wetlands in the Philippines.
Hosts/Species Affected

F. littoralis is one of the most important weeds affecting rice plantations in practically every
location in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world where this crop is cultivated
(Holm et al., 1977). It is also found in bananas and maize in Taiwan, abaca [Musa textilis] in
the Philippines, sugarcane and maize in Indonesia, and taro [Colocasia esculenta] in Hawaii.
It is reported to be one of the prevalent weeds in sorghum in Malaysia.

Prevention and Control

Introduction
Various methods are used to control F. littoralis, depending on the crop system. Handweeding
may be useful when F. littoralis is growing in between rows of cultivated crops such as
maize, sorghum or vegetables. Integrated methods are important: for example, F. littoralis
found in wet and dry direct-seeded rice can be controlled by combining good land preparation
and water management, possibly with herbicides (see, for example, Ghosh and Ganguly,
1993).
Land Preparation
A stale seedbed technique is used to reduce weeds in dry-seeded rice. During land preparation
when the soil is dry, weed seeds will not germinate until the soil becomes moist. After land
preparation, water from rainfall or irrigation canals will stimulate the emergence of weed
seedlings from seeds in the soil. These seedlings can then be destroyed by either chemical or
manual methods. Chemical methods have the advantage of not bringing more weed seeds to
the soil surface where conditions are more favourable for germination. Herbicides should be
applied to the weed seedlings particularly at the two-leaf to five-leaf stages. If mechanical or
manual methods are to be used, soil disturbance should be restricted to only the top layer of
soil (Mukhopadhyay, 1983; Sarkar and Moody, 1983; Farjado and Moody, 1990).
Wet-seeded rice culture under puddled fields provides comparatively better weed control than
dry-seeded culture. Puddling is considered to be an essential technique for weed control.
Most of the buried young weed seedlings and stems of the perennial weeds do not establish
after two or three sessions of rotavation and good puddling.
Water Management
In broadcast-seeded, flooded rice, water is needed for land levelling, fertilizer incorporation
and for suppressing weed growth.
Chemical Control
In Malaysia, herbicides such as 2,4-D could be used to control F. littoralis growing in directseeded rice where land preparation had been poor. However, tolerance of F. littoralis to 2,4-D
has been reported (Itoh, 1994; Watanabe et al., 1997). Other herbicides that have been used
include: bensulfuron, butachlor, cinosulfuron, metsulfuron, pretilachlor, propanil,
pyrazosulfuron and thiobencarb (see, for example, de Datta and Llagas, 1984; Moorthy and
Manna, 1984; Raju and Reddy, 1986; Pradhan and Chetti, 1987; Rao, 1995). However,
Ampong-Nyarko and de Datta (1991) indicate resistance to fenoxaprop and piperophos,
moderate resistance to quinclorac, and only moderate susceptibility to molinate. Herbicides

used for controlling rice weeds, including F. littoralis, have a narrow window of application
and the instructions on the labels should be followed strictly.
Biological Control
Waterhouse (1993b) has reviewed the prospects for biological control for paddy weeds in
South-East Asia, including F. littoralis. Waterhouse (1994) lists records of natural enemies of
the weed, but all are polyphagous species, many of them pests of rice. No species likely to be
host specific is reported and Waterhouse recommends a survey in tropical America to assess
the possibilities.