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Many invasive species were originally introduced for horticultural purposes, and several continue to be profitable for the green (nursery, horticulture, and landscape) industry. Recently, some plant suppliers have marketed less fecund cultivars of several invasive species, including glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus), burning bush (Euonymus alatus), and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), as “safe” alternatives to invasive relatives. We use published matrix population models to simulate the effect of reducing fecundity on the population growth rates of invasive species. We show that large changes in fecundity result in relatively small changes to the population growth rates of long-lived species, which suggests that less fecund cultivars may still provide an invasive threat. Furthermore, many cultivars are clonal selections, and if crossed with other cultivars or selfed, they produce offspring with traits and fecundities that do not resemble the parent plant. On the basis of these two lines of evidence, we suggest that only female sterile cultivars that cannot reproduce asexually should be considered “safe” and noninvasive. Marketing less fecund cultivars as “safe” is premature at this time, and further research is necessary to determine the potential invasiveness of different cultivars.


Copyright © 2011 by University of California Press and American Institute of Biological Sciences. doi:10.1525/bio.2011.61.10.11

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