The importance of phenotypic plasticity for successful invasion by exotic plant species has been well studied, but with contradictory and inconclusive results. However, many previous studies focused on comparisons of native and invasive species that co-occur in a single invaded region, and thus on species with potentially very different evolutionary histories. We took a different approach by comparing three closely related Centaurea species: the highly invasive C. solstitialis, and the noninvasive but exotic C. calcitrapa and C. sulphurea. These species have overlapping distributions both in their native range of Spain and in their non-native range of California. We collected seeds from 3 to 10 populations from each region and species and grew them in common garden greenhouse conditions to obtain an F1 generation in order to reduce maternal effects. Then, F1 seeds were grown subjected to simulated herbivory, variation in nutrient availability, and competition, to explore plasticity in the responses to these conditions. We found little variation in phenotypic plasticity among species and regions, but C. solstitialis plants from California produced more biomass in competition than their Spanish conspecifics. This species also had the highest relative growth rates when in competition and when grown under low nutrient availability. Noninvasive congeners produced intermediate or opposite patterns.
- nutrient availability
- phenotypic plasticity
- relative distance plasticity indexes
- trait shifts