The ecology, biogeography, history and future of two globally important weeds: Cardiospermum halicacabum Linn. and C. grandiflorum Sw.

04 June 2014

Members of the balloon vine genus, Cardiospermum, have been extensively moved around the globe as medicinal and horticultural species, two of which are now widespread invasive species; C. grandiflorum and C. halicacabum. A third species, C. corindum, may also have significant invasion potential. However, in some regions the native status of these species is not clear, hampering management. For example, in South Africa it is unknown whether C. halicacabum and C. corindum are native, and this is a major constraint to on-going biological control programmes against invasive C. grandiflorum. We review the geography, biology and ecology of selected members of the genus with an emphasis on the two most widespread invaders, C. halicacabum and C. grandiflorum. Specifically, we use molecular data to reconstruct a phylogeny of the group in order to shed light on the native ranges of C. halicacabum and C. corindum in southern Africa. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that southern African accessions of these species are closely related to South American taxa indicating human-mediated introduction and/or natural long distance dispersal. Then, on a global scale we use species distribution modelling to predict potential suitable climate regions where these species are currently absent. Native range data were used to test the accuracy with which bioclimatic modelling can identify the known invasive ranges of these species. Results show that Cardiospermum species have potential to spread further in already invaded or introduced regions in Australia, Africa and Asia, underlining the importance of resolving taxonomic uncertainties for future management efforts. Bioclimatic modelling predicts Australia to have highly favourable environmental conditions for C. corindum and therefore vigilance against this species should be high. Species distribution modelling showed that native range data over fit predicted suitable ranges, and that factors other than climate influence establishment potential. This review opens the door to better understand the global biogeography of the genus Cardiospermum, with direct implications for management, while also highlighting gaps in current research.