Singapore Daisy

(Sphagneticola trilobata)

What is it?

Also known as creeping-oxeye, trailing daisy, and wedelia, this plant is in the sunflower family. It’s a spreading, mat-forming perennial herb up to 30 cm in height. It has rounded stems up to 40 cm long, rooting at nodes and with the flowering stems ascending. Leaves are fleshy, hairy, 4–9 cm long and 2–5 cm wide, serrate or irregularly toothed, normally with pairs of lateral lobes, and dark green above and lighter green below. Propagation is mostly vegetatively as seeds are usually not fertile.

Where does it live?

Cultivated in gardens and parks in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Native to the New World, but naturalized throughout the tropics and subtropics.

Why is it here?

As with many of the plants in these boxes, the Singapore Daisy is a woody vine native to the island of Puerto Rico. According to a 2014 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture such vines are thriving in the era of climate change, also known as the Anthropocene. As conditions have changed (drier summer months, warming trends that affect the timing of flowering and fruiting plants, etc…), these vines have begun to supplant larger native trees. The resulting loss of overall biomass has meant less Carbon Dioxide (CO2) captured by the fauna of the island, and thus more CO2 in the atmosphere, and thus faster climate change. Think of these plants as yet another “canary in the coal mine” of global warming, symbolic of changes taking place all over the globe. We have turned our thoughts toward Puerto Rico specifically in response to the Ghost Fishing anthology and its call for “eco-justice.” Hurricane intensity and frequency is on the rise as the planet warms. The same social, political and economic systems that have energized those storms has already ensured- through a long legacy of colonialism and racism-  that they will land hardest on those least responsible for climate change. Hurricanes Sandy and Maria are exhibits A and B in the case for fighting for eco-justice. We hope you will not forget this, and that you will join in that fight.

Of Note:

Sphagneticola trilobata is listed in the IUCN’s “List of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.”] It is spread by people as an ornamental or groundcover that is planted in gardens, and then it is spread into surrounding areas by dumping of garden waste. It rapidly forms a dense ground cover, crowding away and preventing other plant species from regenerating. This species is widely available as an ornamental and is therefore likely to spread further.