Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 555–564 | Cite as

Competitive and allelopathic effects of the invasive shrub Schinus terebinthifolius (Brazilian peppertree)

  • Katherine Nickerson
  • S. Luke FloryEmail author
Original Paper


Non-native plant invasions can suppress biodiversity and alter ecosystem functions, but often the mechanisms underlying the impacts of invasions are unknown. We used a greenhouse mesocosm experiment and a growth chamber germination experiment to evaluate the competitive and allelopathic effects of Schinus terebinthifolius (Brazilian peppertree) on three tree species and four herbaceous plant species native to Florida’s pine flatwoods communities. Schinus had little effect on the establishment of native species in the mesocosm experiment, except for one native herbaceous species (Solidago fistulosa), which had 75 % fewer seedlings in Schinus-invaded mesocosms. However, Schinus caused significant declines in native plant performance. Tree biomass was reduced by 85 % and herbaceous plant biomass was 83 % lower, on average, in mesocosms with Schinus compared to uninvaded controls. The addition of activated carbon to the soil did not ameliorate the effects of Schinus on native species, indicating that competition for resources, not allelochemicals exuded by Schinus roots, was likely responsible for the suppressive effects of Schinus on native species. Schinus fruit extract reduced seed germination by 39 % on average compared to water controls, suggesting crushed fruit below invasive Schinus stands may limit native species recruitment. Our results demonstrate significant impacts of Schinus competition and fruit extracts on native trees and herbaceous species, providing experimental evidence for ecological impacts of invasions and further support for restoration of invaded habitats.


Activated carbon Allelopathy Biomass Germination Pine flatwoods P. elliottii Pinus palustris Plant invasion Mesocosm Quercus virginiana 



Many thanks to James Estrada, Erin Hamilton, Jason Ferrell, Michael Durham and the staff of the UF Plant Science Research and Education Unit for their assistance with the setup and maintenance of the experiments. Thanks to Chris Wilson and Deah Lieurance for assistance with data analysis and Kerry Stricker for reviewing an earlier draft of this manuscript. Funding was provided in part by the University Scholars Program in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Florida.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Agronomy DepartmentUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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