• clonal growth;
  • communication;
  • herbivory;
  • induced resistance;
  • volatile cue


To increase systemic resistance to herbivory, some clonal plants transmit internal cues among clonal ramets to prevent widespread damage to genets. Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) (Asteraceae) is known to use volatile cues to induce resistance within and between plants (so-called volatile communication). In the present study, we observed the extent and frequency of clonal growth in a natural sagebrush population in western North America to understand the influence of clonal growth on volatile communication. We used genetic analysis involving microsatellite markers and excavation of the root systems. In addition, we characterized the volatile profiles from the headspace of sagebrush ramets. Excavation of the root system of sagebrush plants revealed that sagebrush propagates clonally below ground and that daughter ramets grow near the mother stem. Volatiles were variable among genetically different ramets, although clonal ramets (genetically identical ramets) released similar volatiles, suggesting a genetic basis for volatile similarity. Sagebrush has been shown to be most responsive to volatiles released from artificially produced clones and suffers less herbivore damage as a result. Therefore, these results, taken into consideration together, imply that volatile communication may occur among genetically identical ramets under natural conditions, and that volatile similarity between the releaser and receiver may be recognized by the receiver and increase resistance against herbivory.