U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



J Chem Ecol (2011) 37:871–879 DOI 10.1007/s10886-011-9994-4


Pale swallow-wort (Vincetoxicum rossicum) and black swallow-wort (V. nigrum) are two emerging invasive plant species in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada that have shown rapid population expansion over the past 20 years. Using bioassay-guided fractionation, the known phytochemical phenanthroindolizidine alkaloid, (−)-antofine, was identified as a potent phytotoxin in roots, leaves, and seeds of both swallow-wort species. In seedling bioassays, (−)-antofine, at μM concentrations, resulted in greatly reduced root growth of Asclepias tuberosa, A. syriaca, and Apocynum cannabinum, three related, native plant species typically found in habitats where large stands of swallow-wort are present. In contrast, antofine exhibited moderate activity against lettuce, and it had little effect on germination and root growth of either black or pale swallow-wort. In disk diffusion assays, antifungal activity was observed at 10 μg and 100 μg, while antibacterial activity was seen only at the higher level. Although both swallow-wort species display multiple growth and reproductive characteristics that may play an important role in their invasiveness, the presence of the highly bioactive phytochemical (−)-antofine in root and seed tissues indicates a potential allelopathic role in swallow-worts’ invasiveness.