Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Pereskia aculeata



Pereskia aculeata (Lemon-vine)


  • Last modified
  • 10 May 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Pereskia aculeata
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Lemon-vine
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae

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TitlePereskia aculeata (Lemon-vine); fruits. Centennial Park Conservatory, Toronto, Canada. May 2016.
Copyright©Nadiatalent/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 4.0
Pereskia aculeata (Lemon-vine); fruits. Centennial Park Conservatory, Toronto, Canada. May 2016.©Nadiatalent/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 4.0
TitlePereskia aculeata (Lemon-vine); leaves and spiny stems. Iao Tropical Gardens of Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2012
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Pereskia aculeata (Lemon-vine); leaves and spiny stems. Iao Tropical Gardens of Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2012©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
TitlePereskia aculeata (Lemon-vine); spiny stems. Iao Tropical Gardens of Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2012
Copyright©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Pereskia aculeata (Lemon-vine); spiny stems. Iao Tropical Gardens of Maui, Hawaii, USA. May 2012©Forest & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Pereskia aculeata Mill.

Preferred Common Name

  • Lemon-vine

International Common Names

  • English: Barbados gooseberry
  • French: Groseillier des Antilles

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Barbadosstachelbeere; Stacheliger Laubkaktus
  • Netherlands: Bladappel

EPPO code

  • PKIAC (Pereskia aculeata)

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Caryophyllales
  •                         Family: Cactaceae
  •                             Genus: Pereskia
  •                                 Species: Pereskia aculeata

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The synonyms are Pereskia pereskia Karst. and Cactus pereskia L. Some authors, especially in Europe, use the name Peireskia aculeata Mill., which corresponds to the name of the French patron of botany from which the genus got its name. The genus has 13 species and they are all evergreen cacti because the leaves remain attached for several years. They all have spine cushions, the tufts of woolly hairs, the stout spines and the characteristic flowers of the family. In contrast to other cacti, the spines become more abundant with age (Janick and Paull, 2008).


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When young the plant is an erect woody shrub that becomes scrambling or climbing and vine-like, with branches up to 10 m long. The spines occur in groups and are long and slender, on the branches they are short and curved, usually occurring in pairs or threes in the leaf axils. The stem has a mucilaginous sap. The alternate, waxy leaves are elliptic, oblong or ovate (3.2–10 cm long) and normally fleshy and succulent; if conditions are adverse they will become deciduous. The semi-transparent white, yellowish or pink-tinted flowers (2.5–4.5 cm across) have a sweet and pungent odour and are borne in terminal panicles. The calyx tube is prickly. The fruit is a round, oval or pyriform berry, lemon- or orange-yellow or reddish (1–2 cm wide), with a thin, smooth, leathery skin. The curling, leafy sepals of the calyx cover the fruit and fall when the fruit reaches maturity. Few spines are found on the fruit. When fully ripe, the white fruit pulp is juicy with a sub-acid to tart flavour and contains a few flat, thin, brown or black, shiny, soft seeds that are 4 mm long (Janick and Paull, 2008).

P. aculeata climbs into trees and over shrubs, smothering plants and forming dense, impenetrable thickets, to the detriment of native plants and animals. It has the ability to re-grow from pieces of stem and even from detached leaves. The seeds in the fruit are readily dispersed by birds and other organisms (Witt and Luke, 2017).


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It is believed to be indigenous to the West Indies, coastal northern South America and Panama and is now distributed more widely to Bermuda, California, Hawaii, Israel, the Philippines, India and Australia (Janick and Paull, 2008).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


Cape VerdePresent
KenyaPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017
South AfricaUnconfirmed recordCAB Abstracts
UgandaPresentIntroduced Invasive Witt and Luke, 2017

Central America and Caribbean

CaribbeanPresentWitt and Luke, 2017
PanamaPresentWitt and Luke, 2017

South America

ArgentinaPresentWitt and Luke, 2017
BrazilPresentWitt and Luke, 2017
ColombiaPresentWitt and Luke, 2017
French GuianaPresentWitt and Luke, 2017
GuyanaPresentWitt and Luke, 2017
ParaguayPresentWitt and Luke, 2017
SurinamePresentWitt and Luke, 2017
VenezuelaPresentWitt and Luke, 2017

Biology and Ecology

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This tropical to subtropical cactus is only suited for low elevations with a temperature range from 20–37°C. Exposure to chilling temperature causes leaf shedding. Under high light intensity, it remains erect and compact while under low light it grows higher, with ascending stems and the leaves are larger and thinner. Hot, humid conditions with a medium to high rainfall are preferred; too much rain prevents normal fruit development and premature abscission. It grows in many soil types and different levels of fertility, preferring deep soils that have good drainage. The plant is drought tolerant and does not do well if over watered. Under adverse conditions the leaves will fall, helping in the survival of the plant. It is found at roadsides, in disturbed areas, urban open spaces, forest edges/gaps, woodland edges/gaps and coastal forests (Wilt and Luke, 2017).

The juvenile period is about 3 years from seed and 2 years from cuttings. In Jamaica, the plant blooms in June and again in October and November; fruit mature in March and October. In Brazil, the fruit ripen in August–September. On the warm north coast of Honduras, it tends to produce fruit most of the year. Honeybees and other insects are frequent visitors to the flowers and are believed to be the main pollinating agents (Janick and Paull, 2008).


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The fruit are eaten fresh, stewed, preserved with sugar or made into jam or jelly. Pectin needs to be added to make jam and jelly since the fruit is low in pectin and does not gel. The young shoots and leaves are cooked and eaten as greens due to their flavour and high (25%) protein content based on dry matter and 85% digestibility. In Brazil, the leaves are applied on inflammations and tumours. In many temperate countries it is grown as an ornamental cactus in greenhouses or as an indoor plant. In other cases it is used, together with its relative Pereskia bleo, as a vigour-inducing places, it grows to become an impenetrable fence due to its aggressive spine system (Janick and Paull, 2008).

Uses List

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  • Boundary, barrier or support

Human food and beverage

  • Fruits
  • Vegetable

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore


  • Christmas tree
  • Cut flower
  • garden plant
  • Potted plant
  • Propagation material
  • Seed trade

Distribution Maps

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