Coral Ardisia

Authors: Tanner Sparks, Hannah Laville, and Korey Pham

Instructor: Dr. Rodrigo Diaz,

Fig 1JPG

A wild specimen of coral ardisia.

Coral ardisia is an invasive species in Louisiana. Learn how to identify and manage this plant.

Introduction and Range

Coral ardisia (Ardisia crenata) is an invasive evergreen shrub native to southeast China. It was introduced as an ornamental in the early 20th century. Coral ardisia was used as a landscape plant in Florida and has since spread to other states in the southeast including Louisiana and Texas[1].

Fig 2jpg

Coral ardisia sightings map from EDDMapS. Populations may exist outside of green parishes but have not been officially reported.

Coral ardisia has a high shade tolerance and can be found growing in wooded areas. The plant prefers moist soils with rich organic matter, but will rot in flooded areas[2, 3]. The bottomland hardwood forests of Louisiana provide a perfect environment for this invasive species.

Characteristics and Reproduction

Coral ardisia is easy to recognize in the landscape. The plant typically reaches about three feet tall and has dark-green, waxy foliage. Leaves have a scalloped, or crenate, edge to them that is totally different from other plants in Louisiana. Bright red berries grow as bunches on older branches and remain attached to the plant year-round. Plants form clumps with multiple stems arising from one root system [2].

Fig 3jpg

Leaf arrangement on stem.

Reproduction can occur vegetatively or through the seeds found within the berry. New stems grow from underground rhizomes. Each berry contains a single, large seed within. Berries can easily detach from plant stems and fall to the soil directly below the plant. Birds will eat the fruit and drop the seed, dispersing the plant further. Seeds have a germination rate of 84-98% and can survive for years until environmental conditions become favorable [3, 4].

Fig 4jpgBerries on end of stem.

Invasive Qualities and Issues

Coral ardisia disrupts the natural succession of forests and prevents new growth from filling in cleared space. Established populations form thick mats that completely cover the ground and can absorb up to 70% of sunlight that reaches the forest floor. Blocking out that much sunlight means other plants do not have the energy to grow and are crowded out by the thick growths of coral ardisia[5]. Being an evergreen, coral ardisia can grow while other plants are dormant during the Winter, giving it a head start over native species [6]. The result is a monoculture of only coral ardisia around the forest floor. The outcompeting of native plants removes a vital food source for animals that cannot eat coral ardisia and further damages the ecosystem at higher trophic levels.

Fig 5jpgLandscape dominated by coral ardisia.

Prevention and Control

Prevention is the best approach to manage invasive species. DO NOT plant coral ardisia in home gardens, use for compost, or transfer plant material to new areas. Live plant material should be disposed of in sealed bags to prevent spread.

Smaller plants can be pulled by hand, but larger individuals may require digging out with a shovel. Berries should be removed from the plant first and placed in bags to prevent them from falling off and sprouting new plants. You should make sure that nothing is left in the ground as the plant can regrow from rhizomes left in the ground [6].

Prescribed burns are not an effective answer as plants regrow after fire damage [5]. Herbicides, like glyphosate, are available and effective at killing infestations, but care must be taken to not accidentally kill native species. Cleared areas should be checked periodically and any regrowth removed to prevent repopulation [7].

Fig 6jpg
Roots, leaves, and berries in full view.


  1. Niu, H. Y., Hong, L., Wang, Z. F., et al. Inferring the invasion history of coral berry Ardisia crenata from China to the USA using molecular markers. Ecol. Res. 27, 809-818 (2012).
  2. Sellers, B. A., Enloe, S. F., Minogue, P. & Walter, J. Identification and control of coral ardisia (Ardisia crenata): a potentially poisonous plant. EDIS (2013).
  3. Langeland, K. A., & Burks, K. C. Identification and Biology of Non-native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas. 100-101 (University of Florida, 1998).
  4. Anderson, P. J. & Weaver, R. E. Ardisia crenata, coral ardisia, hen’s eyes, scratch throat, coralberry ardisia a recently listed state noxious weed. Pest Alert (2014).
  5. Azofeifa, G. C. Ecological assessments of impact and management of coral ardisia (Ardisia crenata), a shade tolerant invasive shrub in North central Florida. (University of Florida, Gainesville (2012).
  6. Kitajima, K., Fox, A. M., Sato, T., & Nagamatsu, D. Cultivar selection prior to introduction may increase invasiveness: evidence from Ardisia crenata. Biol. Invasions 8, 1471-1482 (2006).
  7. Hutchinson, J. T., Langeland, L. A., & Meisenburg, M. Field trials for herbicide control of coral ardisia (Ardisia crenata) in natural areas of North-central Florida. Invasive Plant Sci. Manag. 4, 234-238 (2011).

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