Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 761–779 | Cite as

From the backyard to the backcountry: how ecological and biological traits explain the escape of garden plants into Mediterranean old fields

  • Audrey MarcoEmail author
  • Sébastien Lavergne
  • Thierry Dutoit
  • Valérie Bertaudiere-Montes
Original Paper


To explain current ornamental plant invasions, or predict future ones, it is necessary to determine which factors increase the probability of an alien species becoming invasive. Here, we focused on the early phases of ornamental plant invasion in order to identify which plant features and cultivation practices may favor the escape of ornamental plants from domestic gardens to abandoned agricultural land sites in the Mediterranean Region. We used an original approach which consisted in visiting 120 private gardens in an urbanizing rural area of the French Mediterranean backcountry, and then visited surrounding old fields to determine which planted species had escaped out of the gardens. We built a database of 407 perennial ornamental alien species (most of which were animal-dispersed), and determined nineteen features that depicted the strength of species’ propagule pressure within gardens, the match between species requirements and local physical environment, and each species’ reproductive characteristics. Using standard and phylogenetic logistic regression, we found that ornamental alien plants were more likely to have escaped if they were planted in gardens’ margins, if they had a preference for dry soil, were tolerant to high-pH or pH-indifferent, and if they showed a capacity for clonal growth. Focusing only on animal-dispersed plants, we found that alien plants were more likely to have escaped if they were abundant in gardens and showed preference for dry soil. This suggests that gardening practices have a primary impact on the probability of a species to escape from cultivation, along with species pre-adaptation to local soil conditions, and capacity of asexual reproduction. Our results may have important implications for the implementation of management practices and awareness campaigns in order to limit ornamental plants to becoming invasive species in Mediterranean landscapes.


Biological invasions Ornamental plants Propagule pressure Pre-adaptation Phylogenetic regression 



We are grateful to the municipality of Lauris for its contribution to this work and to Lauris’ inhabitants for allowing us to visit and study their properties. The authors also thank Jane Molofsky for language edition of the manuscript, as well as Marc Cadotte and two anonymous reviewers for proposing significant improvements to our manuscript. This work was supported by the Association for Development of Teaching and Research in the Provence Alpes Côte-d’Azur region.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Audrey Marco
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sébastien Lavergne
    • 2
  • Thierry Dutoit
    • 3
  • Valérie Bertaudiere-Montes
    • 1
  1. 1.UMR 151 UP/IRD, Laboratoire Population-Environnement-DéveloppementUniversité de Provence Centre Saint-Charles Case 10Marseille Cedex 3France
  2. 2.UMR CNRS 5553 Laboratoire d’Ecologie AlpineUniversité Joseph FourierGrenoble Cedex 9France
  3. 3.UMR-CNRS-IRD 6116 IMEPUniversité d’Avignon, IUTAvignon Cedex 9France

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