Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 269–276

Rhizome growth dynamics of native and exotic haplotypes ofPhragmites australis (Common reed)

  • Michael T. League
  • Erin P. Colbert
  • Denise M. Seliskar
  • John L. Gallagher
Article

DOI: 10.1007/BF02781995

Cite this article as:
League, M.T., Colbert, E.P., Seliskar, D.M. et al. Estuaries and Coasts: J ERF (2006) 29: 269. doi:10.1007/BF02781995

Abstract

Phragmites australis (common reed), a clonal grass, has expanded from a minor component of the mid-Atlantic wetlands to a dominant species. It has been suggested that invasive populations ofPhragmites are an exotic haplotype responsible for the dramatic increase in the distribution of the species. We used field observations and measurements and a greenhouse assay to compare native (haplotype F) and exotic (haplotype M) populations, growing adjacent to one another in a brackish marsh near Odessa, Delaware. In the marsh, shoots of the exotic strain emerged from the rhizomes earlier than those of the native and by March there was an order of magnitude more new shoots of the exotic strain than the native. In August, the exotic strain was 30% taller than the native, had twice the leaf biomass, and twice the total biomass. Nine of ten morphological and biomass characteristics measured differed significantly between the native and exotic strains. A greenhouse assay was conducted by planting rhizomes collected in March in shallow trays and growing them for 70 d followed by shoot harvest (Harvest 1). Rhizomes were measured, replanted, and grown for 35 d after which time they were measured and shoots were harvested (Harvest 2). At Harvest 1, shoot height was approximately 80% greater in the exotic strain, shoot biomass was three times higher, aboveground to belowground biomass ratio was twice as high, and rhizome internode length was 50% greater in the exotic strain than the native. These traits, in addition to number of shoots, were also greater in the exotic strain at Harvest 2. The number of rhizome buds at Harvest 1 was three times greater in the native than in the exotic strain. The greater number of rhizome buds in the native would seem to be an advantage, but it did not result in more shoot production. Buds were maintained in an inactive state that does not allow this strain to compete well in a wetland environment inhabited by a more efficient spreader. The earlier emergence of new shoots from the rhizomes, the greater aboveground structure, the greater rhizome internode length, and the quick transition of rhizome buds to shoot or rhizome explain in part the exotic strain's advantage over the native and the mechanisms for its invasive nature.

Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael T. League
    • 1
  • Erin P. Colbert
    • 1
  • Denise M. Seliskar
    • 1
  • John L. Gallagher
    • 1
  1. 1.Halophyte Biotechnology Center, College of Marine StudiesUniversity of DelawareLewes

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