Parthenium weed, an annual herb native to tropical America, causes severe economic, human, and animal health and environmental impacts in Australia and in many countries in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. There is little known about variation in reproductive output in naturally occurring populations of this weed. This information is vital to develop plant population models, devise management strategies to reduce seed output, and formulate parthenium weed pollen-induced human health (e.g., dermatitis and hay fever) risk assessment. Here, the variations in the number of capitula produced by the parthenium weed at two sites in Queensland, Australia, over a 4-yr period are reported. Under field conditions, parthenium weed produced up to 39,192 capitula per plant (> 156,768 seeds per plant), with majority of the plants (≈ 75%) producing between 11 and 1,000 capitula, and less than 0.3% of the plants producing more than 10,000 capitula (> 40,000 seeds per plant). The number of capitula per plant in the field (297 ± 22) was much lower than those reported from glasshouse and laboratory studies. Plant biomass contributed to 50 to 80% of the variation in capitulum production between plants within plots at each site, and weed density accounted for 62 to 73% of the variation in capitulum production between plots within each site. As plant size is directly correlated with reproductive output, plant size distributions in parthenium weed can be used to estimate effective population size. Information on variation in reproductive output will be used to implement management strategies to reduce parthenium weed seed output, resulting in reduced soil seed bank and weed seed spread.
Nomenclature: Parthenium weed, Parthenium hysterophorus L.