U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version



Evolution 2012; doi:10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01829.x


Invasive plant species threaten biological communities globally. However, relatively little is known about how evolutionary processes vary over the course of an invasion. To evaluate the importance of historical and adaptive drivers of range expansion, we compare the performance of North American populations of invasive Lonicera japonica from areas established 100–150 years ago, now the southern core of the range, to populations from the northern range margin, established within the last 65 years. Growth and survival of individuals from 17 core and 14 margin populations were compared in common gardens at both regions. After three years, margin plants were larger than core plants regardless of planting region, with 34% more branches and 36% greater biomass. Growth rate was directly related to survival, and margin plants also had 30% greater survival than core plants across both regions. Larger size of individuals from margin populations suggests either that the shorter growing period at the northern margin has selected for more rapid growth or that range expansion has selected for plants with a greater colonizing ability, including rapid establishment and growth. Because this evolution has resulted in enhanced survival and increased growth rate it may drive spread, increasing the likelihood of further invasion.