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   Centaurea melitensis (herb)     
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      Centaurea melitensis (Photo: Forest & Kim Starr, USGS) - Click for full size   Centaurea melitensis (Photo: Forest & Kim Starr, USGS) - Click for full size   Centaurea melitensis (Photo: © John M Randall/The Nature Conservancy) - Click for full size   Centaurea melitensis (Photo: © John M Randall/The Nature Conservancy) - Click for full size
    Taxonomic name: Centaurea melitensis L.
    Synonyms:
    Common names: Abremanos (Spanish), Croix de Malte (French), Maltese star thistle (English), Malteser Flockenblume (German), Napa thistle (English), tocalote (English)
    Organism type: herb
    Centaurea melitensis is a herb of the family Asteraceae. C. melitensis is native to Africa and Europe and was introduced to the United States. It is a highly competitive species that forms dense, impenetrable stands that displaces native and desirable vegetation. C. melitensis usually invades open, disturbed sites and is often spread by humans and livestock via transportation of contaminated crop seed or hay.
    Similar Species
    Centaurea solstitialis, Centaurea sulphurea

    More
    Occurs in:
    agricultural areas, natural forests, range/grasslands, ruderal/disturbed
    General impacts
    When star thistle infestations are high, native species can experience drought conditions even in years with normal rainfall (Gerlach et al., 1998, in DiTomaso, 2001). It has also been observed to significantly reduce the seed production of the 'Threatened' San Diego thornmint (Acanthomintha ilicifolia) (E. Bauder, unpublished data, in DiTomaso, 2001).
    Uses
    Centaurea melitensis is used for medicinal purposes in Spain.
    Geographical range
    Native range: Centaurea melitensis is native to Northern Africa: Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia; Macaronesia: Spain - Canary Islands; Southeastern Europe: Former Yugoslavia; Greece [incl. Crete]; Italy [incl. Sardinia, Sicily] and Southwestern Europe: France [incl. Corsica]; Portugal; Spain [incl. Baleares] (USDA-ARS, 2010)
    Known introduced range: C. melitensis has been introduced to the US and occurs in several states especially along the west coast of the USA; it is also reported to be present in Hawaii; and in British Columbia in Canada elsewhere in the United States (USDA-NRCS 2010).
    Introduction pathways to new locations
    Agriculture: Human influences, including vehicles, contaminated crop seed or hay, road maintenance, and moving livestock, can also contribute to rapid and long distance spread of the seeds (DiTomaso, 2001).
    Road vehicles (long distance): Human influences, including vehicles, contaminated crop seed or hay, road maintenance, and moving livestock, can also contribute to rapid and long distance spread of the seeds (DiTomaso, 2001).
    Translocation of machinery/equipment: Human influences, including vehicles, contaminated crop seed or hay, road maintenance, and moving livestock, can also contribute to rapid and long distance spread of the seeds (DiTomaso, 2001).
    Transportation of domesticated animals: Human influences, including vehicles, contaminated crop seed or hay, road maintenance, and moving livestock, can also contribute to rapid and long distance spread of the seeds (DiTomaso, 2001).
    Transportation of habitat material: Human influences, including vehicles, contaminated crop seed or hay, road maintenance, and moving livestock, can also contribute to rapid and long distance spread of the seeds (DiTomaso, 2001).


    Local dispersal methods
    Agriculture (local): Human influences, including vehicles, contaminated crop seed or hay, road maintenance, and moving livestock, can also contribute to rapid and long distance spread of the seeds (DiTomaso, 2001).
    Consumption/excretion: Birds such as pheasants, quail, house finches, and goldfinches feed heavily on yellow starthistle seeds and are capable of long distance dispersal (Roché, 1992, in DiTomaso, 2001).
    Hikers' clothes/boots: The short, stiff, pappus bristles are covered with microscopic, stiff, appressed, hair-like barbs that readily adhere to clothing, hair and fur (DiTomaso, 2001).
    On animals: Birds such as pheasants, quail, house finches, and goldfinches feed heavily on yellow starthistle seeds and are capable of long distance dispersal (Roché, 1992, in DiTomaso, 2001).
    On animals (local): Seeds fall near the parent plant or are dispersed to short distances with wind and to greater distances with human activities, animals, water, and soil movement (DiTomaso, 2001).
    Road vehicles: Human influences, including vehicles, contaminated crop seed or hay, road maintenance, fill dirt or gravel materials, and moving livestock, can also contribute to rapid and long distance spread of the seeds (DiTomaso, 2001).
    Translocation of machinery/equipment (local): Human influences, including vehicles, contaminated crop seed or hay, road maintenance, and moving livestock, can also contribute to rapid and long distance spread of the seeds (DiTomaso, 2001).
    Transportation of habitat material (local): Seeds fall near the parent plant or are dispersed to short distances with wind and to greater distances with human activities, animals, water, and soil movement (DiTomaso, 2001).
    Water currents: Seeds fall near the parent plant or are dispersed to short distances with wind and to greater distances with human activities, animals, water, and soil movement (DiTomaso, 2001).
    Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
    Last Modified: Tuesday, 15 June 2010


ISSG Landcare Research NBII IUCN University of Auckland