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Interference between Hieracium pilosella and Arrhenatherum elatius in colliery spoils of north of France

Allelopathy or competition?


On colliery heaps in northern France, a tall grassland community dominated by Arrhenatherum elatius, give place to a thin grassland community in which Hieracium pilosella is very abundant. It has been claimed that Hieracium pilosella is an allelopathic species and this phenomenon has been investigated as an explanation of this phase of plant succession. The importance of osmotic pressure in tested plant extracts is demonstrated and may be responsible for presumed allelopathy. Two phytotoxic compounds have been revealed in roots+rhizomes of Hieracium pilosella (umbelliferon and apigenin-glucoside). A third phytotoxic compound was exuded by roots in hydroponic cultures (7-glucoside-umbelliferon or skimin). However no toxicity of soil has been found and no phytotoxic compounds appeared to be present in the soil under Hieracium pilosella. Experimental mixed cultures (sterile or non-sterile conditions) reveal suppression of Hieracium pilosella by Arrhenatherum elatius rather than the reverse. Allelopathy cannot be invoked to explain this plant succession.

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Correspondence to Hubert Henn.

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Henn, H., Petit, D. & Vernet, P. Interference between Hieracium pilosella and Arrhenatherum elatius in colliery spoils of north of France. Oecologia 76, 268–272 (1988).

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Key words

  • Allelopathy
  • Succession
  • Colliery heaps
  • Hieracium pilosella