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Cultivar selection prior to introduction may increase invasiveness: evidence from Ardisia crenata

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Abstract

Ardisia crenata (Myrsinaceae), an evergreen shrub with attractive red fruits introduced from Japan to the USA for ornamental purpose, invades the understory of mesic hardwood forests, forming dense patches (up to 300 stems per m2), and competitively displaces native understory plants by creating dense local shade. Comparison of the wild genotype that grows in mature evergreen broadleaf forests in central Kyushu, Japan, with the ecotype invading north central Florida revealed how selection for desirable cultivars might have inadvertently selected for traits that enhance the invasive potential of the species. In Japanese wild populations in deeply shaded evergreen forests, natural selection apparently maintained efficient architecture with a low degree of self-shading and large seed mass to enhance seedling shade tolerance. Cultivar selection for showy appearance can explain the greater fecundity but smaller seed size observed in the Florida populations compared to the Japanese population. Artificial selection for densely foliated appearance can also explain the greater degree of self-shading and less-efficient light use in the Florida genotype compared to the Japanese wild type grown under a common environment. Furthermore, the Florida ecotype allocated more biomass to root carbohydrate storage. These trait modifications resulted in slower growth rates, but greater competitive ability to cast shade upon neighbors and higher resprouting potential in the Florida populations. How traits are modified through the processes of artificial selection and cultivation must be taken into consideration in the evolutionary ecology of many other invasive plants introduced as ornamental plants.

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Correspondence to Kaoru Kitajima.

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Kitajima, K., Fox, A.M., Sato, T. et al. Cultivar selection prior to introduction may increase invasiveness: evidence from Ardisia crenata . Biol Invasions 8, 1471–1482 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-005-5839-9

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