Trade-off between dispersal traits in a heterocarpic plant across its invasion route

Dafna Robinson, Tatiana Bogdanova, Oded Cohen, Michal Gruntman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Premise: Dispersal ability (i.e., investment in dispersing structures) can vary across plant species or populations, such as between core compared to leading populations of invasive plants. However, in heterocarpic plants, which produce propagules with varying dispersal abilities, dispersal potential can also vary via investment in the proportion of dispersing morphs (termed dispersal rate). Nevertheless, very little is known about the interplay between investment in dispersal ability vs. dispersal rate or how each is affected by varying environmental pressures. Methods: This study examined the interplay between dispersal ability and dispersal rate across the invasion route of the heterocarpic plant Heterotheca subaxillaris. Capitula of H. subaxillaris were collected from eight populations along its invasion route in the Eastern Mediterranean coastal plain. The dispersal ability of the dispersing pappus-bearing achenes was measured as the ratio between pappus width and biomass. Dispersal rate was calculated as the ratio between the number of dispersing achenes and total achenes per capitulum. Results: Dispersal ability and dispersal rate were found to be negatively correlated across populations of H. subaxillaris, with a greater investment in pappus width in populations at the leading edge of the invasion compared to a greater proportion of dispersing achenes in core populations. Conclusions: Our results suggest a trade-off might exist between dispersal ability and dispersal rate, which could change along the invasion route of heterocarpic plants such as H. subaxillaris and contribute to their invasive success. This study highlights the importance of examining both dispersal traits when studying the dispersal potential of heterocarpic species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16192
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Asteraceae
  • Heterotheca subaxillaris
  • heterocarpy
  • invasive plants
  • residence time
  • seed dispersal


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