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Tithonia diversifolia

Tithonia diversifolia

Recognize the problem

Family: Asteraceae (daisy family)

Common names: Mexican sunflower, shrub sunflower, tree marigold.

French: Tournesol mexicain; Kinyarwanda: Icyicamahirwe; Chichewa: Deliya.

Annual or perennial herbaceous broadleaved shrub, woody at the base [2–3 (–5) m high]; stems slightly ridged and hairy when young.

Leaves: Greyish-green, finely hairy on underside giving a grey appearance; opposite or alternate along the stem; simple, 3–5 (–7) pointed lobes (6–33 cm long and 5–22cm wide), margins with a series of curved projections or toothed.

Flowers: Bright yellow, daisy or sunflower-like (up to 10 cm across), carried on long and swollen stalks (7–30 cm long) which are velvety below the flowerhead.

Fruits: Brown, small (4–8 mm long), dry, one-seeded, in a brown spiky mass.


Origin: Central America.

Introduction: As fodder, medicine, mulch, soil improvement, hedge/barrier, ornament and possibly as a contaminant of seed.

Habitat: Tropical regions.

Spread: By seeds and vegetatively, by producing roots from nodes on lower or prostrate branches or clonal growth; wind and water, as well as human and livestock movement can carry seeds over large distances.

Invades: Hedges around crop fields, fallow land, disturbed sites, wastelands, urban open space, savannah, lowlands and riparian vegetation, roadsides.

Impacts: Mexican sunflower has the ability to compete with agricultural crops, particularly with rice and maize. Controlling T. diversifolia in crop fields can be highly costly to the farmer. The plant also destroys grazing land for domestic animals. According to reports, it is leading to the abandonment of farms in the Copperbelt region of Zambia. The weed forms dense stands displacing native plant species and the animals associated with them.  It is contributing to the extinction of local species, including important medicinal plants. Mexican sunflower is also known to displace the invasive and aggressive shrub Chromolaena odorata, and is now considered to be one of the most invasive species in some regions.

The recommendations in this factsheet are relevant to: All Countries

Authors: CABI. Edited by participants from Malawi and Rwanda at a workshop in Nairobi, February 2016
©CAB International. Published under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 licence.

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