Plant Ecology

, Volume 181, Issue 2, pp 153–165

Invasive Plants can Inhibit Native Tree Seedlings: Testing Potential Allelopathic Mechanisms


DOI: 10.1007/s11258-005-5698-6

Cite this article as:
Orr, S., Rudgers, J. & Clay, K. Plant Ecol (2005) 181: 153. doi:10.1007/s11258-005-5698-6


The mechanisms by which invasive species affect native communities are not well resolved. For example, invasive plants may influence other species through competition, altered ecosystem processes, or other pathways. We investigated one potential mechanism by which invasive plants may harm native species, allelopathy. Specifically, we explored whether native tree species respond differently to potential allelopathic effects of two invasive plant species. We assessed the separate effects of Lolium arundinaceam (tall fescue) and Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive) on three common successional tree species: Acer saccharinum (silver maple), Populus deltoides (eastern cottonwood), and Platanus occidentalis (sycamore). Tall fescue and autumn olive are widely planted and highly invasive or persistent throughout North America where they often grow in forest edges, old fields, and other sites colonized by pioneering tree species. In an exploratory greenhouse experiment, we applied aqueous extracts derived from soil, leaf litter, or live leaves to native trees. We compared these treatments to a sterile water control and also to minced leaves leached in water, a common, but potentially less realistic method of testing for allelopathy. For all tree species, minced leaves from tall fescue reduced the probability that seedlings emerged, and minced leaves of autumn olive reduced the number of days to emergence. During other demographic stages, the three native tree species diverged in their responses to the invasive plants. Platanus occidentalis exhibited the widest range of responses, with reduced root biomass due to minced tissue from both invasive species, reduced days to emergence and marginally reduced survival from minced tall fescue, and reduced leaf biomass from tall fescue leaf litter. Populus deltoides appeared insensitive to most extracts, although survival was marginally increased with application of minced or fresh leaf extracts from autumn olive. In addition, minced tall fescue shortened the time to seedling emergence for Acer saccharinum, potentially a positive effect. Overall, results suggest that allelopathy may be one mechanism underlying the negative impacts of tall fescue and autumn olive on other plant species, but that effects can depend strongly upon the source of allelochemicals and the tree species examined.



Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel P. Orr
    • 1
  • Jennifer A. Rudgers
    • 1
  • Keith Clay
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA