, Volume 157, Issue 2, pp 239-248
Date: 12 Jun 2008

Different gardens, different results: native and introduced populations exhibit contrasting phenotypes across common gardens

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Abstract

Invasive plants may respond through adaptive evolution and/or phenotypic plasticity to new environmental conditions where they are introduced. Although many studies have focused on evolution of invaders particularly in the context of testing the evolution of increased competitive ability (EICA) hypothesis, few consistent patterns have emerged. Many tests of the EICA hypothesis have been performed in only one environment; such assessments may be misleading if plants that perform one way at a particular site respond differently across sites. Single common garden tests ignore the potential for important contributions of both genetic and environmental factors to affect plant phenotype. Using a widespread invader in North America, Cynoglossum officinale, we established reciprocal common gardens in the native range (Europe) and introduced range (North America) to assess genetically based differences in size, fecundity, flowering phenology and threshold flowering size between native and introduced genotypes as well as the magnitude of plasticity in these traits. In addition, we grew plants at three nutrient levels in a pot experiment in one garden to test for plasticity across a different set of conditions. We did not find significant genetically based differences between native and introduced populations in the traits we measured; in our experiments, introduced populations of C. officinale were larger and more fecund, but only in common garden experiments in the native range. We found substantial population-level plasticity for size, fecundity and date of first flowering, with plants performing better in a garden in Germany than in Montana. Differentiation of native populations in the magnitude of plasticity was much stronger than that of introduced populations, suggesting an important role for founder effects. We did not detect evidence of an evolutionary change in threshold flowering size. Our study demonstrates that detecting genetically based differences in traits may require measuring plant responses to more than one environment.

Communicated by Rebecca Irwin.