Introduced plants of the invasive Solidago gigantea (Asteraceae) are larger and grow denser than conspecifics in the native range


Correspondence: Gabi Jakobs, Geobotanical Institute, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürichbergstr. 38, CH-8044 Zurich, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 16324382. Fax.: +41 16321215. E-mail:


Introduced plant species that became successful invaders appear often more vigorous and taller than their conspecifics in the native range. Reasons postulated to explain this better performance in the introduced range include more favourable environmental conditions and release from natural enemies and pathogens. According to the Evolution of Increased Competitive Ability hypothesis (EICA hypothesis) there is a trade-off between investment into defence against herbivores and pathogens, and investment into a stronger competitive ability. In this study, we conducted field surveys to investigate whether populations of the invasive perennial Solidago gigantea Ait (Asteraceae) differ with respect to growth and size in the native and introduced range, respectively. We assessed size and morphological variation of 46 populations in the native North American range and 45 populations in the introduced European range. Despite considerable variation between populations within continents, there were pronounced differences between continents. The average population size, density and total plant biomass were larger in European than in American populations. Climatic differences and latitude explained only a small proportion of the total variation between the two continents. The results show that introduced plants can be very distinct in their growth form and size from conspecifics in the native range. The apparently better performance of this invasive species in Europe may be the result of changed selection pressures, as implied by the EICA hypothesis.