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New techniques and findings in the study of a candidate allelochemical implicated in invasion success



Allelopathy has been hypothesized to promote the success of invasive plants. Support for the role of allelopathy in invasions has emerged from research on the candidate allelochemical (−)-catechin, which is secreted by spotted knapweed. Here we describe new methods to quantify catechin in liquid and soil. With a new technique, we assayed catechin production by individual plants in liquid media and found levels up to two orders of magnitude less than previously reported. An acetone/water solution provided consistent recovery of catechin from soil, with percent recovery depending upon soil type. We evaluated soils from two spotted knapweed sites in Montana, USA, but found no measurable catechin. Idaho fescue, a native species reportedly sensitive to catechin, only exhibited slightly reduced growth at concentrations 10 times higher than previously reported to cause 100% mortality. Our results emphasize that more research is required to clarify the role of catechin in the invasion of spotted knapweed.

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