Will the use of less fecund cultivars reduce the invasiveness of perennial plants?

Tiffany M. Knight*, Kayri Havens, Pati Vitt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)816-822
Number of pages7
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • cultivar
  • demography
  • invasive plant
  • ornamental plant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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