Invasive plants in the Ponziane islands - New Zealand spinach

Invasive plants in the Ponziane islands - New Zealand spinach

20 June 2022

New Zealand spinach Tetragonia tetragonioides differs from the species described earlier, because it is more similar to spinach than Hottentot fig and because it is native to New Zealand (instead of South Africa), from which some individuals were brought to Kew Gardens in London at the end of the XVIII century.

The leaves are broadly hastate (triangular with outward pointing lobes at the base) and the flowers are small and yellow. The plant has edible leaves and is cooked like spinach. This feature and the resistance to hot and dry climates were the main reasons for its introduction.

New Zealand spinach generally establishes in coastal habitats and competes with beach, dune, cliff and salt marsh vegetation. In the Ponziane, it is naturalised in Palmarola, on the main beach of San Silverio and along the path from the beach to the settlement behind.

Like the other species in the Aizoaceae family (the same as the Hottentot Fig) that we have written about in previous weeks, New Zealand Spinach cannot currently be considered a threat to biodiversity because of its still limited distribution. However, all of these species being thermophilic and xerophilic plants, i.e., well adapted to high temperature and arid conditions, it is likely that in the future climate change will favor the formation of new wild stands and an increase in their dispersal and invasiveness.