Pacific Pests, Pathogens and Weeds - Online edition

Pacific Pests, Pathogens, Weeds & Pesticides

False kava (492)

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  • Worldwide distribution (except Africa). In Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu.
  • Major invasive shrub, suckering rapidly, forming dense thickets in native forests, along waterways, plantations, pastures, food gardens. Difficult to control: all parts regrow rapidly. Competes with kava and presence lowers commodity value. Host of CMV, causing kava dieback.
  • Small shrub, 1-2m, sometimes tree-like to 6m. Leaves, oval, 30cm long, with one lobe larger. Leaf stalks surrounding stem and winged. Flowers, small, pale green in long arching spikes, up to 25cn, opposite leaves.
  • Spread: birds, bats, rodents, water; trade in kava.
  • Biosecurity: chance of introduction high in kava consignments.
  • Biocontrol: none.
  • Cultural control: hand-weed removing all roots; or slash and collect all cuttings and burn. Clean machinery/vehicles.
  • Chemical control: 2,4-D or imazapyr, applied to basal bark or cut stems.
Common Name

False kava. It is also known as hoja santa (Spanish for 'sacred leaf'), spiked pepper, root beer plant.

Scientific Name

Piper auritum. It is a member of the Piperaceae.

AUTHOR Grahame Jackson & Mani Mua
Information from CABI (2019) Piper auritum. Invasive Species Compendium. (; and Chaney A (2019) Piper auritum. Center for Latin American Studies. Vanderbilt University. (; and from Piper auritum Kunth, Piperaceae (2010) Pacific Islands Ecosystems at Risk (PIER). ( Photo 1 Konrad Engelburger Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. Photos 5&6 Forest & Kim Starr (2002) Piper auritum (habit). Location: Maui, Nahiku.

Produced with support from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research under project HORT/2016/185: Responding to emerging pest and disease threats to horticulture in the Pacific islands, implemented by the University of Queensland and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

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