How Novel are the Chemical Weapons of Garlic Mustard in North American Forest Understories?

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The Novel Weapons Hypothesis predicts that invasive plants excel in their new ranges because they produce novel metabolites to which native species possess little resistance. We examined the novelty of the phytochemistry of the Eurasian invader, Alliaria petiolata, in North America by comparing its phytochemical profile with those of closely related Brassicaceae native to North America. We examined the profile and/or concentrations of glucosinolates, alliarinoside, flavonoids, cyanide, and trypsin inhibitors in cauline leaves of field-collected A. petiolata, Arabis laevigata, Cardamine concatenata, C. bulbosa, and C. douglassii. Cyanide and the glucosinolates and flavonoids produced by A. petiolata were detected only in A. petiolata. Trypsin inhibitor activity was highest in A. laevigata, intermediate in the Cardamine species, and lowest in A. petiolata. The phytochemical profile of A. petiolata was distinct from those of four closely related and/or abundant Brassicaceaeous species native to North America, providing support for the Novel Weapons Hypothesis.



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