Density-Dependent Phytotoxicity of Impatiens pallida Plants Exposed to Extracts of Alliaria petiolata

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Invasive plants are by definition excellent competitors, either indirectly through competition for resources or directly through allelopathic inhibition of neighboring plants. Although both forms of competition are commonly studied, attempts to explore the interactions between direct and indirect competition are rare. We monitored the effects of several doses of extracts of Alliaria petiolata, a Eurasian invader in North America, on the growth of Impatiens pallida, a North American native, at several planting densities. The density-dependent phytotoxicity model predicts that as plant density increases, individual plant size will decrease, unless a toxin is present in the soil. In this case, individual plant size is predicted to increase as plant density increases, as plants share a limited toxin dose. We tested this model using fractions of an A. petiolata extract enriched in flavonoids or glucosinolates, as well as a combined fraction. The flavonoid-enriched fraction and the combined fraction suppressed I. pallida growth but only when applied at a dose eight times higher than that expected in the field. When treated with a dose equivalent to estimated field exposure levels, I. pallida growth was not distinguishable from that of control plants that received no extract, showing that indirect competition for resources was more important for determining the growth of I. pallida than direct allelopathic inhibition by A. petiolata. This is an important reminder that, even though many plants have the demonstrated potential to exert strong allelopathic effects, those effects may not always be apparent when other forms of competition are considered as well.



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