The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Alternanthera philoxeroides
Alternanthera philoxeroides

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Alternanthera philoxeroides (Mart.) Griseb.

Common name: alligatorweed

Synonyms and Other Names: Pigweed, alligator weed, alligator grass, red legs, Achyranthes philoxeroides (Mart.) Standl., Alternanthera paludosa Bunbury, Alternanthera philoxerina Suess., Bucholzia philoxeroides Mart., Telanthera philoxeroides (Mart.) Moq.

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Alternanthera philoxeroides is a perennial with prostrate, sprawling, floating hollow stems, often in a dense tangled mass, rooted in shallow water or growing from the shoreline, occasionally free-floating (Long and Lakela 1971; Godfrey and Wooten 1981). The hollow stems provide considerable buoyancy of the mat (Buckingham 1996). Roots form at stem nodes. Morphology and habit of A. philoxeroides are similar to many aquatic primose (e.g., Ludwigia palustris) and hygrophila (e.g., Hygrophila costata) species.

While recognized as a major pest in aquatic environments where it has been introduced, A. philoxeroides may also grow terrestrially in moist cultivated soils (Zeiger 1967). When growing as a terrestrial, stems are smaller in diameter, more lignified, with shorter internodes. Additionally, there is variability with stems and leaves of the two recognized biotypes of A. philoxeroides. The narrow-stemmed alligatorweed (NSA) biotype have relatively slender stems and longer internodes when compared to stems of the broad-stemmed alligatorweed (BSA) biotype, which have broader stems and longer internodes (Kay and Haller 1982). There is a line of hairs on each side of the stem internodes, originating from the leaf axils and extending to the base of the next distal node (Stratford Kay, pers. comm.).

The leaves of NSA are smaller and more blunt-tipped than BSA leaves, which are larger, longer, and have an acute leaf tip (Kay and Haller 1982). In general, leaves are bright green, arranged in opposite pairs (90 degree angles), entire, elliptic-linear to ovate, 5-11 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. A leaf mid-vein is prominent on both sides of the leaf (Godfrey and Wooten 1981).

Flowers perfect (with both male and female reproductive structures), on a terminal spike (5-6 cm long), white to greenish-white, 8-10 mm in diameter, with a clover-like shape (Long and Lakela 1971; Godfrey and Wooten 1981). Vogt et al. (1992) noted wild seed production in Arkansas, Lousiana, and Mississippi populations, though none germinated.

Size: Floating stems up to 15 meters long (Zeiger 1967).

Native Range: The Parana River region of South America (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay) (Vogt et al. 1979; Julien et al. 1995).

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Alternanthera philoxeroides are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL1897202319Cahaba; Guntersville Lake; Locust; Lower Coosa; Lower Tallapoosa; Middle Alabama; Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F; Middle Tennessee-Elk; Middle Tombigbee-Chickasaw; Middle Tombigbee-Lubbub; Mississippi Coastal; Mobile Bay; Mobile-Tensaw; Noxubee; Pea; Perdido Bay; Upper Alabama; Upper Choctawhatchee; Wheeler Lake
AR1968202220Bayou Bartholomew; Bayou Macon; Bayou Meto; Boeuf; Dardanelle Reservoir; Fourche La Fave; Lake Conway-Point Remove; Little Missouri; Loggy Bayou; Lower Arkansas; Lower Arkansas-Maumelle; Lower Mississippi Region; Lower Mississippi-St. Francis; Lower Ouachita-Smackover; Lower Saline; Lower St. Francis; Lower White; McKinney-Posten Bayous; Ouachita Headwaters; Upper Saline
CA1946202213Honcut Headwaters-Lower Feather; Los Angeles; San Diego; San Gabriel; San Luis Rey-Escondido; Santa Ana; Santa Barbara Coastal; Suisun Bay; Tulare Lake Bed; Tulare-Buena Vista Lakes; Upper Kaweah; Upper Tule; Ventura
FL1894202452Alafia; Alapaha; Apalachee Bay-St. Marks; Apalachicola; Apalachicola Bay; Aucilla; Big Cypress Swamp; Blackwater; Caloosahatchee; Cape Canaveral; Charlotte Harbor; Chipola; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Daytona-St. Augustine; Econfina-Steinhatchee; Escambia; Everglades; Florida Bay-Florida Keys; Florida Southeast Coast; Floridian; Hillsborough; Kissimmee; Lake Okeechobee; Little Manatee; Lower Chattahoochee; Lower Choctawhatchee; Lower Ochlockonee; Lower St. Johns; Lower Suwannee; Manatee; Myakka; Nassau; New; Oklawaha; Peace; Pensacola Bay; Perdido; Santa Fe; Sarasota Bay; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays; St. Marys; Suwannee; Tampa Bay; Upper St. Johns; Upper Suwannee; Vero Beach; Waccasassa; Western Okeechobee Inflow; Withlacoochee; Withlacoochee; Yellow
GA1965202224Alapaha; Altamaha; Canoochee; Cumberland-St. Simons; Little; Little Satilla; Lower Flint; Lower Ocmulgee; Lower Oconee; Lower Ogeechee; Lower Savannah; Middle Chattahoochee-Lake Harding; Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F; Middle Savannah; Ogeechee Coastal; Satilla; Spring; St. Marys; Upper Chattahoochee; Upper Flint; Upper Ocmulgee; Upper Oconee; Upper Ogeechee; Withlacoochee
KY198619882Kentucky Lake; Upper Cumberland
LA1927202344Amite; Atchafalaya; Atchafalaya - Vermilion; Bayou Cocodrie; Bayou Sara-Thompson; Bayou Teche; Boeuf; Boeuf-Tensas; Calcasieu-Mermentau; Castor; East Central Louisiana Coastal; Eastern Louisiana Coastal; Lake Maurepas; Lake Maurepas; Lake Pontchartrain; Liberty Bayou-Tchefuncta; Little; Louisiana Coastal; Lower Calcasieu; Lower Grand; Lower Mississippi; Lower Mississippi Region; Lower Mississippi-Lake Maurepas; Lower Mississippi-New Orleans; Lower Ouachita; Lower Ouachita; Lower Pearl; Lower Red; Lower Red; Lower Red-Lake Iatt; Lower Red-Ouachita; Lower Sabine; Mermentau; Mermentau Headwaters; Red-Saline; Red-Sulphur; Sabine Lake; Tangipahoa; Tensas; Tickfaw; Upper Calcasieu; Vermilion; West Central Louisiana Coastal; Whisky Chitto
MD201420212Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Middle Potomac-Catoctin
MS1949202330Bear; Big Sunflower; Black; Bogue Chitto; Buffalo; Deer-Steele; Escatawpa; Homochitto; Little Tallahatchie; Lower Chickasawhay; Lower Leaf; Lower Pearl; Middle Pearl-Silver; Middle Pearl-Strong; Middle Tombigbee-Lubbub; Mississippi Coastal; Noxubee; Pascagoula; Pascagoula; Pickwick Lake; Sucarnoochee; Tallahatchie; Tangipahoa; Tibbee; Town; Upper Big Black; Upper Leaf; Upper Pearl; Upper Tombigbee; Upper Yazoo
NC1957202329Albemarle; Albemarle-Chowan; Blackwater; Cape Fear; Chowan; Coastal Carolina; Contentnea; Haw; Lower Cape Fear; Lower Catawba; Lower Neuse; Lower Pee Dee; Lower Roanoke; Lower Tar; Lumber; Meherrin; Middle Roanoke; New River; Northeast Cape Fear; Pamlico; Pamlico Sound; Rocky; Santee; South Fork Catawba; Upper Cape Fear; Upper Catawba; Upper Neuse; Upper Pee Dee; Waccamaw
OK199620205Dirty-Greenleaf; Lower Cimarron-Skeleton; Lower Verdigris; Robert S. Kerr Reservoir; Upper Little
PR196320225Cibuco-Guajataca; Culebrinas-Guanajibo; Eastern Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico; Southern Puerto Rico
SC1945202225Black; Broad-St. Helena; Bulls Bay; Carolina Coastal-Sampit; Congaree; Cooper; Edisto River; Edisto-Santee; Edisto-South Carolina Coastal; Lake Marion; Little Pee Dee; Lower Broad; Lower Catawba; Lower Pee Dee; Lower Pee Dee; Lower Savannah; Lumber; Middle Savannah; North Fork Edisto; Salkehatchie; Saluda; Santee; Santee; South Carolina Coastal; Waccamaw
TN197520179Holston; Kentucky Lake; Lower Cumberland; Lower Tennessee; Lower Tennessee-Beech; Middle Tennessee-Chickamauga; Stones; Tennessee Region; Watts Bar Lake
TX1975202352Austin-Oyster; Austin-Travis Lakes; Buffalo-San Jacinto; Caddo Lake; Cedar; Chambers; East Fork Trinity; East Galveston Bay; East Matagorda Bay; East Matagorda Bay; Elm Fork Trinity; Lake Fork; Lake O'the Pines; Little Cypress; Little Wichita; Lower Angelina; Lower Brazos; Lower Colorado-Cummins; Lower Guadalupe; Lower Neches; Lower Nueces; Lower Sabine; Lower San Antonio; Lower Sulpher; Lower Trinity; Lower Trinity-Kickapoo; Lower West Fork Trinity; Middle Brazos-Palo Pinto; Middle Guadalupe; Middle Sabine; Navasota; Navidad; North Bosque; North Galveston Bay; Sabine Lake; San Bernard; San Gabriel; San Marcos; South Corpus Christi Bay; South Laguna Madre; Spring; Toledo Bend Reservoir; Upper Angelina; Upper Neches; Upper Sabine; Upper San Antonio; Upper Trinity; Upper West Fork Trinity; West Fork San Jacinto; West Galveston Bay; White Oak Bayou; Yegua
VA195620217Albemarle; Blackwater; Chowan; Hampton Roads; Lower James; Lynnhaven-Poquoson; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan

Table last updated 6/21/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Like dense, floating mats of Eichhornia crassipes, A. philoxeroides can form dense floating mats and, with the subsequent build-up of organic detritus in the mat, can create an environment that supports the growth of emergent aquatic and terrestrial species, including woody species such as Salix spp. and Cephalanthus occidentalis. These floating islands (also referred to as tussocks, sudds, and flotants), accelerate succession and create concern for quality aquatic habitat, navigation and infrastructure (Russell 1942; Penfound and Earle 1948).

Plants produce viable seed in its native range, but observed seeds were all non-viable in its adventive range (Vogt et al. 1992). Reproduction is thought to be entirely through vegetative means. Stem fragments produce roots at stem nodes that can float to new locations, rooting in the subsurface soils producing new colonies. Along with stem nodes, vegetative reproduction can also occur from thick root mass and underground stem fragments (Sainty et al. 1998).

Alligatorweed may grow in waters deeper than 2.5 meters (Stratford Kay, pers. comm.), but must remain rooted in hydrosoil for optimum growth (Sculthorpe 1967). Plants can uproot, drift, and establish in new locations, but they cannot compete if unrooted for long periods of time (Sculthorpe 1967). The mat can extend up to 15 meters from where it is rooted in the soil (Zeiger 1967), but mats were observed much further from banks in Mississippi and North Carolina populations where they rooted into stumps and small trees (Stratford Kay, pers. comm.).

The introduced alligatorweed flea beetle (Agasicles hygrophila Selman and Vogt), along with other introduced insects, have provided exceptional biological control for this species. However, the northern spread of A. philoxeroides is beyond the range of the introduced insect's ability to overwinter. The flea beetle produces the most damage to A. philoxeroides plants and can only survive winters where the mean January temperature is 11°C or warmer, which includes Florida and coastal areas of the southeastern U.S. (Buckingham 1996). However, the introduced alligatorweed stem borer (Vogtia malloi) has produced more damage to A. philoxeroides in the interior regions of alligatorweed’s adventive range than has the flea beetle in the southern and coastal regions (Vogt et al. 1992).

Means of Introduction: Alternanthera philoxeroides was first recorded in the US in 1897 near Mobile, Alabama. The plant was present in New Orleans in 1898 (Zeiger 1967; Coulson 1977). Plants are believed to have been contaminants in ship ballast water (Zeiger 1967).

Status: Established in all previously mentioned areas.

Impact of Introduction:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...

EcologicalEconomicHuman HealthOther

After its introduction into the US in the late 1800’s, A. philoxeroides quickly spread throughout the Southeast creating problems similar to those described for Eichhornia crassipes (Penfound and Earle 1948; Zeiger 1967). Following the development of the herbicide 2,4-D in the 1940’s, aggressive herbicide spraying initiated against E. crassipes allowed for A. philoxeroides, which was more resistant to the herbicide, to replace the niche formerly occupied by E. crassipes. By 1963, as estimated 65,700 hectares of waters throughout the Southeast were infested (Buckingham 1996). As a result, in 1959, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), under the “Expanded Project for Aquatic Plant Control” authorized by Public Law 85-500, 85th Congress, requested the Agricultural Research Service, USDA, to begin surveys for A. philoxeroides natural enemies in South America (Zeiger 1967). In 1964, the USDA began releasing imported insects from South America as a biocontrol for this pest. Extensive testing and quarantine procedures were completed prior to release (Zeiger 1967). By all accounts, the insects that were approved and subsequently released against A. philoxeroides have been successful in managing this pest plant, although the effectiveness of alligatorweed thrips (Amynothrips andersoni), which are flightless and rarely seen on wild populations, is questionable (Stratford Kay, pers. comm.).

Remarks: The Aquatic Plant Control Program staff with the USACE Jacksonville District, upon request, annually coordinates the shipment of flea beetles (Agasicles hygrophila) collected in the St. Johns River in Florida to areas of the country where the flea beetles do not overwinter and alligatorweed persists.

References: (click for full references)

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Author: Thayer, D.D., and I.A. Pfingsten

Revision Date: 8/30/2023

Peer Review Date: 4/4/2016

Citation Information:
Thayer, D.D., and I.A. Pfingsten, 2024, Alternanthera philoxeroides (Mart.) Griseb.: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=227, Revision Date: 8/30/2023, Peer Review Date: 4/4/2016, Access Date: 6/21/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/21/2024].

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