Biological Invasions

, Volume 18, Issue 11, pp 3265–3275 | Cite as

Invasive tall annual willowherb (Epilobium brachycarpum C. Presl) in Central Europe originates from high mountain areas of western North America

  • Kai Uwe Nierbauer
  • Juraj Paule
  • Georg Zizka
Original Paper


Identification of the source population of biological invasions has important consequences for the effective control and management of the invader. Tall annual willowherb (Epilobium brachycarpum) is a relatively recent and rapidly spreading neophyte in Europe that was first detected in 1978. Populations of tall annual willowherb from Germany and northern France were analysed by AFLP fingerprinting together with samples from five different localities in its native range in western North America. Three genetically different groups were found corresponding to different altitude zones in the native range. The FST is high among all samples indicating a strong genetical separation of the three groups. Invasive populations showed much lower genetic diversity than the native population. Additionally invasive populations revealed genetic affinities to North American specimens originating particularly from high mountain areas. The two large German populations and the population from northern France are genetically distinct while the individuals within the populations are genetically uniform. This suggests multiple introduction events rather than one introduction with consequent spreading across Europe. A third small German population from Treis-Karden in the Mosel valley clusters with North American lowland populations but suffers from frost damage and its permanent establishment is doubtful.


Neophyte AFLP Fingerprinting Genetic diversity Introduction Source identification 



Funding for this project was provided by Senckenberg internal research funds. We are grateful to Barbara Ertter (University and Jepson Herbaria, Berkeley) and Roswitha Schmickl (Institute of Botany ASCR, Prague) for donating herbarium specimens of E. brachycarpum from the native range. Further thanks go to the staff of the Grunelius-Möllgaard Laboratory (Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Frankfurt am Main) for lab support and to the Wissenschaftsgarten of the Goethe University for cultivation of plant material. We thank Diana Bowler (Senckenberg BiK-F, Frankfurt am Main) for checking the English of the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany and Molecular EvolutionSenckenberg Research InstituteFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Department of Diversity, Evolution and Phylogeny of Higher Plants and Lichens, Institute for Ecology, Evolution and DiversityGoethe UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany

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