Fruit heteromorphism and naturalization success in Asteraceae

Finding the factors that explain invasion success of species is a major objective in ecology. The combination of extensive data on fruit heteromorphism in Asteraceae and the largest global plant-naturalization database offered the unprecedented possibility to add a missing piece to the naturalization-success puzzle.

Fruit heteromorphism is considered to be a bet-hedging strategy to cope with spatially or temporally heterogeneous environments. The different behaviours of the fruit morphs of the same species might also be beneficial during naturalization, once the species has been introduced to a new range. Yet, no study to date has tested the association between fruit heteromorphism and global-scale naturalization success for a large set of plant species.

Graph of heteromorph and monomorph naturalization

Fenesi et al. show that heteromorphic species were more likely to naturalize outside their native range. However, among the naturalized species, heteromorphic and monomorphic species did not differ in the number of world regions where they became naturalized. A short life span and tall stature both promoted naturalization success and, when life history and height were included in the models, the effect of fruit heteromorphism on the ability to naturalize became non-significant. Nevertheless, among tall plants, heteromorphic ornamental species were significantly more likely to become naturalized in general and in more regions than monomorphic species.

Their results provide evidence that in Asteraceae the production of heteromorphic fruits is associated with naturalization success. It appears, however, that not fruit heteromorphism per se, but a successful combination of other biological traits in fruit heteromorphic species, namely short life span and tall stature, contributes to their naturalization success.

Further reading

Fenesi, A., Sándor, D., Pyšek, P., Dawson, W., Ruprecht, E., Essl, F., … Van Kleunen, M. (2019). The role of fruit heteromorphism in the naturalization of Asteraceae. Annals of Botany, 123(6), 1043–1052. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcz012