Biological Invasions

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 827–838 | Cite as

Lengths and correlates of lag phases in upper-Midwest plant invasions

  • Daniel J. Larkin
Original Paper


There are often lag phases in plant invasions, seemingly dormant periods between arrival in a new range and rapid population growth. Lags impede prioritization of invasive-species control efforts: when eradication is most feasible, it is often unclear whether a species is benign or a potentially harmful “sleeper weed.” I used herbarium records to estimate lag phases for invasive or potentially invasive plant species in three regions of the upper Midwest. I tested whether factors related to species’ invasion epidemiology, traits, or the habitats they invade were correlated with lag lengths. From an initial pool of 151 species, there were sufficient records to test for lags in 76 for northern Wisconsin, 90 for southern Wisconsin, and 91 for the southern Lake Michigan region. Lags were identified in 77% (197) of these 257 datasets and ranged from 3–140 years with a mean of 47.3 ± 34.6 (SD). Lags differed by native range, introduction pathway, growth form and habit, dispersal mode, flowering phenology, pollination mode for a subset of species, and breadth, light availability, and water availability of invaded habitats. However, estimated lags were highly variable and tested factors did not have strong explanatory power. Exotic species comprised an increasing proportion of total herbarium records. Of the species with known introduction pathways, 85% were intentionally introduced, mainly as ornamentals. The long durations, high variability, and low predictability of lags, along with human culpability for an increasingly non-native flora, support a cautious approach to species introductions.


Exotic species Herbarium data Lag phase Logistic growth Species traits Von Bertalanffy growth function 



I thank the institutions and people responsible for the Wisflora and vPlants online herbaria, particularly Merel Black and Andrew Hipp who were generous with data and their time. Katrina Navoa compiled species information; Stuart Wagenius provided statistical advice and help with R programming; Kay Havens, Richard Olsen, and Jim Steffen provided insights on various aspects of the species and factors investigated. The comments of Anibal Pauchard and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the manuscript. Lastly, I thank the countless individuals whose collecting and processing of specimens enabled this analysis.

Supplementary material

10530_2011_119_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (120 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 119 kb)
10530_2011_119_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (58 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 57 kb)
10530_2011_119_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (69 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 68 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plant Science and ConservationChicago Botanic GardenGlencoeUSA

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