, Volume 152, Issue 1, pp 13-27

Changes in density, biomass, seed production and soil seed banks of the non-native invasive plant, Chromolaena odorata, along a 15 year chronosequence

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The non-native invasive plant Chromolaena odorata (Asteraceae) was studied at 6 sites, with a chronosequence of ages from <1 to ≥15 years, at St Lucia, South Africa. C. odorata density, biomass, seed production and soil seed banks were quantified in three microsites: sun, semi-shade and shade. C. odorata density decreased with invasion age, apparently as a self-thinning process. Biomass per unit area and seed production/plant increased over the first 10 years, but declined greatly at ≥15 years. C. odorata plants grew larger and had much greater seed production in the sun relative to semi-shade, with small plants producing few if any seeds in the shade. Seed production in the sun varied from 2000 (<1-year old site) to 260 000 (10 year) seeds m−2 annum−1. About 20–46% of seeds produced were germinable and showed the same trend with age of invasion, but was particularly low after ≥15 years. Assessment of soil seed banks immediately prior to seed production (seed ≥10 months old), indicates that about 5–10% of seeds in the sun and 11–22% in the shade were still germinable, resulting in germinable seed densities of 12–385 and 158–511 m−2, respectively (excluding the ≥15-year old site). A greenhouse trial showed that burial of seeds, relative to those at the surface, and provision of less water, significantly improved seed persistence in the soil, while light intensity had no effect. Control of C. odorata is difficult due to rapid attainment of reproductive maturity, large production of wind-dispersed seeds and a short-term persistent seed bank. An integrated control strategy either excluding fire (coastal forest sites) or using fire prior to seed release in July/August to kill plants and soil-stored seeds immediately prior to seed production, together with biological, chemical and/or physical control, should be explored.