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Keywords:

  • Biological invasions;
  • enemy release hypothesis;
  • herbivory;
  • invasive plants;
  • population biology

ABSTRACT

It is commonly assumed that invasive plants grow more vigorously in their introduced than in their native range, which is then attributed to release from natural enemies or to microevolutionary changes, or both. However, few studies have tested this assumption by comparing the performance of invasive species in their native vs. introduced ranges. Here, we studied abundance, growth, reproduction, and herbivory in 10 native Chinese and 10 invasive German populations of the invasive shrub Buddleja davidii (Scrophulariaceae; butterfly bush). We found strong evidence for increased plant vigour in the introduced range: plants in invasive populations were significantly taller and had thicker stems, larger inflorescences, and heavier seeds than plants in native populations. These differences in plant performance could not be explained by a more benign climate in the introduced range. Since leaf herbivory was substantially reduced in invasive populations, our data rather suggest that escape from natural enemies, associated with increased plant growth and reproduction, contributes to the invasion success of B. davidii in Central Europe.