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Publication #SS-AGR-328

Chinese Creeper (Mikania micrantha): A New Weed in South Florida1

Brent Sellers, Sarah Lancaster, and Ken Langeland2

A new weed was reported in late 2009 near Homestead, FL (Figure 1). After several consultations and DNA analysis, it was determined that the plant is Chinese creeper (Mikania micrantha).

General Description

Chinese creeper is a highly branched perennial vine. Leaves are opposite and heart-shaped (Figure 2), 2–5 inches long and 1–3 inches wide, and taper to an acute point. In Florida, it likely flowers in November and December, with seed set occurring primarily in December. Seeds are tufted (Figure 3), making them well-equipped for wind dispersal. For pictures of this plant, please see the Division of Plant Industry website at http://www.freshfromflorida.com/pi/pest-alerts/mikania-micrantha-pest-alert.html.

Figure 1. 

Chinese creeper weed is a new introduction that has been found in 11 locations in the Redlands area near Homestead, Florida. It is an aggressive vine that can grow over and smother desirable vegetation and nursery crops. Credits: Keith Bradley


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How Do I Identify Chinese Creeper?

Identification of Chinese creeper is complicated because two very similar species are present in Florida. Climbing hempweed (Mikania scandens) looks very similar to Chinese creeper, but there are some differences. Chinese creeper tends to grow in disturbed habitats, whereas climbing hempweed favors natural habitats. Chinese creeper has very rapid growth compared to climbing hempweed, and has pale green or yellow-green leaves with green petioles and white flowers, whereas climbing hempweed has medium-green leaves with reddish petioles and pinkish flowers. The other similar species, Florida Keys hempvine (Mikania cordifolia), has hairy leaves and stems and larger flower heads compared to Chinese creeper and climbing hempweed.

Figure 2. 

Chinese creeper is a highly branched perennial vine. Leaves are opposite and heart-shaped, 2–5 inches long and 1–3 inches wide, and taper to an acute point. In Florida, flowering typically occurs in November and December, but flowering through January may be common. Credits: Keith Bradley


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 3. 

Chinese creeper seeds are wind-dispersed. Each plant is capable of producing more than 10,000 seeds, but germination is thought to be approximately 10%–12%. Credits: Andrew Derkson


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

What Is Its Habitat?

Wet areas, forest borders, clearings, canal banks, rivers, roadsides, pastures, and other agricultural areas. Chinese creeper generally invades disturbed areas. This plant does not typically grow well in heavily shaded areas.

Is It a Problem?

Simply speaking, yes. Chinese creeper is a major environmental and agricultural threat. Currently, it is recognized globally as a top 100 invasive species. It is a significant pest in plantation crops and commercial forests in West Africa and India and throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. It produces tens of thousands of fine, wind-blown seeds that disperse easily over vast areas. It also reproduces asexually and can regenerate from small cuttings.

Growth of Chinese creeper is quite rapid. It can grow at rates of at least three feet per week. This high rate of growth allows Chinese creeper to smother existing vegetation quite quickly, reducing desirable species' access to light.

How Is It Controlled?

Mechanical control through cutting is not beneficial because this weed regrows quickly from cuttings. Uprooting and digging, though very labor-intensive, are the primary mechanical method for control. We are suggesting that all plant material be incinerated if plants are removed by hand.

Chemical control methods in Florida will likely include timely applications of glyphosate or triclopyr. These must be applied prior to flowering. A 3 percent by volume solution of glyphosate in water or triclopyr at 1–2 pints per acre will likely be sufficient for control. Excellent control of Chinese creeper in Australia has also been found with fluroxypyr (Vista) at 1 pint per acre. Frequent scouting of the infested and surrounding areas should be performed to treat any escapes or regrowth.

What Do I Do if I Find This Weed?

Because this weed shows growth reminiscent of Old World climbing fern, which has invaded many natural areas in South Florida, it is imperative that control efforts on individual populations begin immediately. To date, at least 125 separate locations in the Homestead area have been identified, and with the wind-blown seeds, there are likely to be more. If this weed is found in South Florida, please contact Florida Division of Plant Industry at 888-397-1517.

Footnotes

1.

This document is SS-AGR-328, one of a series of the Agronomy Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date January 2010. Latest revision July 2013. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Brent Sellers, associate professor, Agronomy Department, Range Cattle Research and Education Center, Ona, FL; Sarah Lancaster, Extension scientist, Range Cattle Research and Education Center, Ona, FL; and Ken Langeland, professor, Agronomy Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

All chemicals should be used in accordance with directions on the manufacturer's label. Use pesticides safely. Read and follow directions on the manufacturer's label. The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication do not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.