Biological Invasions

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1083–1093 | Cite as

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi enhance P uptake and alter plant morphology in the invasive plant Microstegium vimineum

  • Marissa R. Lee
  • Cong Tu
  • Xin Chen
  • Shuijin Hu
Original Paper


Invasive plant species can interact with native soil microbes in ways that change how they use nutrients and allocate biomass. To examine whether Microstegium vimineum form symbiotic associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and whether AMF mediate nutrient acquisition and growth of the plant, we conducted a field survey in Raleigh, NC and Hangzhou, China and two experiments in growth chambers. This is the first report that M. vimineum is mycorrhizal, with colonization rates of 47 and 21 % in its native and invaded range, respectively. In the growth chamber, addition of an AMF inoculum mixture significantly promoted M. vimineum biomass accumulation in both field and sterilized soils, particularly after 64 days of growth. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi also increased plant phosphorous (P) uptake but did not consistently affect total plant nitrogen (N) acquisition, leading to decreases in plant N:P ratios. More interestingly, AMF significantly altered plant morphology, increasing the number of stolons and aerial roots per individual (59 and 723 %), aerial roots per gram aboveground biomass (374 %) and aerial roots per stolon (404 %). Our results suggest that mycorrhizal enhancement of plant growth by stimulating tillering may serve as another mechanism by which M. vimineum can quickly take over new territory. Future studies on invasive plant-microbial interactions are needed to understand the mechanisms through which microbes contribute to the competitive ability of invasive plants.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Invasion Japanese stiltgrass Phosphorus uptake Plant morphology 



Thanks are extended to Dr. Michael Burton for providing Microstegium seed and for his help collecting field soil, Dr. Lei Cheng for supplies and advice, Jared Chauncey for laboratory assistance, and Dr. Jose-Luis Machado and Nicholas Buttino for their help during the writing process. This work was part of an Honors Thesis at Swarthmore College and received funding from a Swarthmore HHMI student research fellowship and the Kelman Scholars Program at North Carolina State University.

Supplementary material

10530_2013_562_MOESM1_ESM.docx (140 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 140 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marissa R. Lee
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cong Tu
    • 2
  • Xin Chen
    • 2
    • 3
  • Shuijin Hu
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant PathologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  3. 3.Zhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

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