The direct competitive effects of exotic plants on natives are among the leading causes of plant extinctions worldwide. Allelopathy, one type of direct plant competition, has received relatively little research, particularly in aquatic and wetland systems, even though allelopathy can be a potent mechanism through which plant communities are structured. Typha angustifolia (narrow-leaved cattail) is an invasive exotic plant in North America that often forms monocultures in disturbed wetlands and is more invasive than native members of its genus. We tested whether T. angustifolia was allelopathic and whether it produced different biochemicals than a native congener by growing it with the native bulrush Bolboschoenus fluviatilis (river bulrush) in soil with and without activated carbon and by qualitatively and quantitatively comparing soluble phenolics produced in the roots of T. angustifolia and the native Typha latifolia (broad-leaved cattail). T. angustifolia had a strong allelopathic effect on B. fluviatilis, reducing the longest leaf length and root, shoot, and total biomass of B. fluviatilis. When the allelopathy of T. angustifolia was ameliorated by activated carbon, however, longest leaf length, ramet number, root biomass, shoot biomass, and total biomass of T. angustifolia were greatly reduced due to resource competition with B. fluviatilis. Furthermore, T. angustifolia produced different, but not more, soluble phenolics than T. latifolia suggesting that the identity of the phenolics is different between the two species rather than the concentrations. The allelopathic effects of T. angustifolia on a North American native wetland plant and its production of root biochemicals that appear to differ from those produced by a native congener are consistent with the possibility that T. angustifolia may use a novel allelochemical in its invasion of North American wetlands.
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This research was supported by the Minnesota State University, Mankato, Department of Biological Sciences. We thank Christopher Ruhland and Ragan Callaway for their assistance throughout this research, S. Galen Smith for his help identifying Typha species, and Matt Liebman, Brian Wilsey, and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. Thanks also to Ross Behrends, Cindy Kottschade, Matthew Krna, Nate Jarchow, and Nichole Kotasek for assistance in the field and laboratory.
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