Biological Invasions

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 427–444 | Cite as

Causes and consequences of extreme variation in reproductive strategy and vegetative growth among invasive populations of a clonal aquatic plant, Butomus umbellatus L. (Butomaceae)

  • Keiko Lui
  • Faye L. Thompson
  • Christopher G. EckertEmail author


The mode of reproduction may influence the spread of invasive species by affecting evolutionary potential and dispersal ability. We sampled 51 introduced North American populations of the clonal aquatic plant Butomus umbellatus L. (flowering rush) and found extreme variation in sexual fertility caused by polyploidy. Populations consisted of diploids that produced thousands of viable seeds or of sexually sterile triploids. Although a trade-off between sexual and clonal reproduction predicts that the sexual sterility of triploids would be compensated for by greater clonal reproduction, a greenhouse experiment involving eight diploid and 10 triploid populations showed that diploid plants not only invest substantially in sexual structures but also make hundreds of tiny clonal bulbils on both rhizomes and inflorescences. In contrast, triploids do not make bulbils and have very limited scope for clonal multiplication and dispersal. Diploid populations were more frequent than triploid populations, especially in the Great Lakes region. This is probably because of the difference between cytotypes in clonal rather than sexual reproduction, as genetic analyses indicate a general lack of sexual recruitment in North America. Although triploids were less common, they have a wider geographical distribution. This could be due to a greater ecological tolerance resulting from polyploidy. However, genetic evidence suggests that triploids have become widespread via their use in and escape from horticulture. North America is being colonized by two distinct forms of B. umbellatus that differ strongly in reproductive strategy as well as the vectors and pathways of invasion.


aquatic plants Butomus clonal reproduction dispersal Great Lakes polyploidy reproductive variation resource allocation sexual reproduction triploidy 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keiko Lui
    • 1
  • Faye L. Thompson
    • 1
  • Christopher G. Eckert
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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