What happens in Europe stays in Europe: apparent evolution by an invader does not help at home

Robert W. Pal, John L. Maron, David U. Nagy, Lauren P. Waller, Ambra Tosto, Huixuan Liao, Ragan M. Callaway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Some invasive plant species rapidly evolve greater size and/or competitive ability in their nonnative ranges. However, it is not well known whether these traits transfer back to the native range, or instead represent genotype-by-environment interactions where traits are context specific to communities in the new range where the evolution occurred. Insight into transferability vs. context specificity can be tested using experiments performed with individuals from populations from the native and nonnative ranges of exotic invasive species. Using a widespread invasive plant species in Europe, Solidago gigantea, we established reciprocal common garden experiments in the native range (Montana, North America; n = 4) and the nonnative range (Hungary, Europe; n = 4) to assess differences in size, vegetative shoot number, and herbivory between populations from the native and nonnative ranges. In a greenhouse experiment, we also tested whether the inherent competitive ability of genotypes from 15 native and 15 invasive populations differed when pitted against 11 common native North American competitors. In common gardens, plants from both ranges considered together produced five times more biomass, grew four times taller, and developed five times more rhizomes in the nonnative range garden compared to the native range garden. The interaction between plant origin and the common garden location was highly significant, with plants from Hungary performing better than plants from Montana when grown in Hungary, and plants from Montana performing better than plants from Hungary when grown in Montana. In the greenhouse, there were no differences in the competitive effects and responses of S. gigantea plants from the two ranges when grown with North American natives. Our results suggest that S. gigantea might have undergone rapid evolution for greater performance abroad, but if so, this response does not translate to greater performance at home.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03072
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • EICA hypothesis
  • Solidago gigantea
  • biogeography
  • common garden experiment
  • competition
  • invasion
  • reintroduction
  • transcontinental research


Dive into the research topics of 'What happens in Europe stays in Europe: apparent evolution by an invader does not help at home'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this