Begonia cucullata

Wax begonia

Nonnative to FloridaFISC Category 2 Invasive

Species Overview

Native to: Brazil and Argentina

Begonias are grown for their attractive flowers and/or for the assortment of foliage types. Begonia cucullata grows nearly 24 inches wide and 18 inches tall, creating a mound of glossy, succulent green leaves. Wax begonias are used extensively in the landscape as a bedding or groundcover plant, but are also used in container plantings or baskets. There are thousands of begonia cultivars developed for commercial uses but the wax begonia is probably the most popular begonia in the world.

Species Characteristics

  • Family: Begoniaceae
  • Habit:  compact, mounded, succulent, and fibrous-rooted plant with fleshy stems 
  • Leaves: scalloped edges and are cordate in shape
  • Flowers: white to pink and produced all summer
  • Fruit: capsule, 24–30 mm long, unequally 3-winged
  • Seeds: very tiny, fine seeds are produced in great quantities
  • Distribution in Florida: statewide

Impacts

Wax begonia has been found in Florida, particularly from the northern and central peninsula west to central panhandle and also in Georgia. Begonias will invade disturbed areas such as roadsides, harvested forests, old fields, overgrazed pastures, and waste places. Because begonias are such prolific seed producers, seeds are thought to be the primary mechanism of dispersal. Begonias can also root very easily, but this mechanism of reproduction may not play a major role under natural conditions.

The UF/IFAS Assessment lists wax begonia as a species of caution which needs to be managed to prevent escape. FLEPPC lists it as a Category 2 invasive plant.

Control Methods

Preventive Measures

The first step in preventative control of begonia is to limit planting and remove existing plants within the landscape. Inform the public to refrain from purchasing, propagating, or planting wax begonia due to their ability to escape into natural areas. Native alternatives to wax begonia include common blue violet (Viola sororia), early blue violet (Viola palmata), swamp fern (Blechunum serrulatum) and oblong twinflower (Dyschoriste oblongifolia).

Cultural/Physical

Hand pull seedlings that germinate, but care must be taken to prevent re-rooting of the cuttings. If possible, removal should occur before seeds are produced, as it produces copies tiny seeds. Care must be exercised to prevent seed spread and dispersal during the removal process.

Mechanical

Because wax begonia can re-sprout from cuttings, tilling is not recommended as a control method. Removal of entire plant is more effective. 

Biological

There are no known biological control programs for begonia.

Chemical

A broad spectrum herbicide such as glyphosate may be used according to the directions on the manufacturer’s label. A 1% solution is recommended, with retreatment to control seedlings. Pre-emergence herbicides may be effective in controlling seedlings, but research in this area has not been conducted.

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