Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

An invasive dandelion unilaterally reduces the reproduction of a native congener through competition for pollination

  • 701 Accesses

  • 51 Citations


The impact of invasive alien species on native species is of increasing global concern. Invasive plants have various negative effects on natives through competition; however, relatively little is known about competition for pollination. The relationship between Japanese native dandelions (Taraxacum spp.) and invasive congeners may be a typical case of such an interaction. For example, native dandelions are being replaced by invasive congeners, especially in urban and suburban areas of Japan. To explain this phenomenon, we hypothesized that when natives are mixed with attractive invasives, natives may suffer from reduced seed set because invasives deprive natives of pollinators or because pollinators frequently move between species, resulting in interspecific pollen transfer. To test this hypothesis, we studied the effect of the invasive dandelion T. officinale on the pollination and seed set of the native T. japonicum using artificial arrays of monospecific and mixed-species plots as well as natural populations. Taraxacum officinale attracted more pollinator visits, perhaps because it produced more nectar than T. japonicum. The number of pollinator visits to T. japonicum was reduced when the congeners were grown together, and pollinators moved frequently between the two species. The proportion of seed set for T. japonicum was reduced in the presence of T. officinale in both artificial arrays and natural populations. These results support our hypothesis that interspecific competition for pollination plays an important role in the recent replacement of native dandelions by invasive congeners in Japan. Because invasive dandelions are apomicts, negative effects are incurred only by sexual natives. Thus, this system can be recognized as a rare case of interspecific interaction through pollination.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. Aigner PA (2004) Ecological and genetic effects on demographic processes: pollination, clonality and seed production in Dithyrea maritima. Biol Conserv 116:27–34

  2. Armbruster WS, Herzig AL (1984) Partitioning and sharing of pollinators by four sympatric species of Dalechampia (Euphorbiaceae) in Panama. Anim Mo Bot Gard 71:1–16

  3. Bartomeus I, Vilà M, Santamaría L (2008) Contrasting effects of invasive plants in plant–pollinator networks. Oecologia 155:761–770

  4. Bell JM, Karron JD, Mitchell RJ (2005) Interspecific competition for pollination lowers seed production and outcrossing in Mimulus ringens. Ecology 86:762–771

  5. Bjerknes AL, Totland Ø, Hegland SJ, Nielsen A (2007) Do alien plant invasions really affect pollination success in native plant species? Biol Conserv 138:1–12

  6. Brock MT (2004) The potential for genetic assimilation of a native dandelion species, Taraxacum ceratophorum (Asteraceae), by the exotic congener T. officinale. Am J Bot 91:656–663

  7. Brown BJ, Mitchell RJ (2001) Competition for pollination: effects of pollen of an invasive plant on seed set of a native congener. Oecologia 129:43–49

  8. Brown BJ, Mitchell RJ, Graham SA (2002) Competition for pollination between an invasive species (purple loosestrife) and a native congener. Ecology 83:2328–2336

  9. Burd M (1994) Bateman’s principle and plant reproduction: the role of pollen limitation in fruit and seed set. Bot Rev 60:84–111

  10. Campbell DR (1989) Inflorescence size, test of the male function hypothesis. Am J Bot 76:730–738

  11. Campbell DR, Motten AF (1985) The mechanism of competition for pollination between two forest herbs. Ecology 66:554–563

  12. Caruso CM (1999) Pollination of Ipomopsis aggregata (Polemoniaceae): effects of intra vs interspecific competition. Am J Bot 86:663–668

  13. Caruso CM (2000) Competition for pollination influences selection on floral traits of Ipomopsis aggregata. Evolution 54:1546–1557

  14. Charlesworth B (1980) The cost of sex in relation to mating system. J Theor Biol 84:655–671

  15. Chittka L, Schurkens S (2001) Successful invasion of a floral market—an exotic Asian plant has moved in on Europe’s river-banks by bribing pollinators. Nature 411:653

  16. Conner JK, Rush S (1996) Effects of flower size and number on pollinator visitation to wild radish, Raphanus raphanistrum. Oecologia 105:509–516

  17. Delph LF (1986) Factors regulating fruit and seed production in the desert annual Lesquerella gordonii. Oecologia 69:471–476

  18. Fishman L, Wyatt R (1999) Pollinator-mediated competition, reproductive character displacement, and the evolution of selfing in Arenaria uniflora (Caryophyllaceae). Evolution 53:1723–1733

  19. Free JB (1968) The flower constancy of bumblebees. J Anim Ecol 39:395–402

  20. Gardner M, Macnair M (2000) Factors affecting the co-existence of the serpentine endemic Mimulus nudatus Curran and its presumed progenitor, Mimulus guttatus Fischer ex DC. Biol J Linn Soc 69:443–459

  21. Goulson D, Wright NP (1998) Flower constancy in the hoverflies Episyrphus balteatus (Degeer) and Syrphus ribesii (L.) (Syrphidae). Behav Ecol 9:213–219

  22. Grabas GP, Laverty TM (1999) The effect of purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria L.; Lythraceae) on the pollination and reproductive success of sympatric co-flowering wetland plants. Ecoscience 6:230–242

  23. Hada Y (1988) The distributions of dandelions, now and in the future. In: Yano N (ed) Vegetation in Japan. Tokai University Press, Tokyo, pp 159–169 (in Japanese)

  24. Hayashi Y, Hirano T, Azegami C, Hishiyama C, Nishida N (1989) Wild flowers of Japan: plains, seaside and hills. Yama-kei publishers, Tokyo (in Japanese)

  25. Heinrich B (1976) Foraging specializations of individual bumblebees. Ecol Monogr 46:105–128

  26. Herrera CM (2000) Flower-to-seedling consequences of different pollination regimes in an insect-pollinated shrub. Ecology 81:15–29

  27. Hotta M (1977) On the distributions of dandelions (Taraxacum) in Kinki district. Shizenshi-Kenkyu 1:117–134 (in Japanese with English summary)

  28. Huenneke LF, Thomson JK (1995) Potential interference between a threatened endemic thistle and an invasive nonnative plant. Conserv Biol 9:416–425

  29. Jones KN (1997) Analysis of pollinator foraging: tests for non-random behavior. Funct Ecol 11:255–259

  30. Joshi A, Moody ME (1998) The cost of sex revisited: effects of male gamete output of hermaphrodites that are asexual in their female capacity. J Theor Biol 195:533–542

  31. Kandori I, Ohsaki N (1996) The learning abilities of the white cabbage butterfly, Pieris rapae, foraging for flowers. Res Popul Ecol 38:111–117

  32. Kandori I, Ohsaki N (1998) Effect of experience on foraging behavior towards artificial nectar guide in the cabbage butterfly, Pieris rapae crucivora (Lepidoptera, Pieridae). Appl Entomol Zool 33:35–42

  33. Lewis AC (1989) Flower visit consistency in Pieris rapae, the cabbage butterfly. J Anim Ecol 58:1–13

  34. Marshall DR, Brown AHD (1981) The evolution of apomixis. Heredity 47:1–15

  35. McGuire AD, Armbruster WS (1991) An experimental test for reproductive interactions between two sequentially blooming Saxifraga species. Am J Bot 78:214–219

  36. Moragues E, Traveset A (2005) Effect of Carpobrotus spp. on the pollination success of native plant species of the Balearic Islands. Biol Conserv 122:611–619

  37. Morita T (1995) Taraxacum Weber ex F·H. Wigg. In: Iwatsuki K, Yamazaki T, Boufford DE, Ohba H (eds) Flora of Japan, vol IIIb. Kodansha, Tokyo, pp 7–13

  38. Morita T (1997) Cosmopolitan compilospecies: Taraxacum officinale. In: Yamaguchi H (ed) Natural history of weeds. Hokkaido University Press, Sapporo, pp 192–208 (in Japanese)

  39. Morita T (2004) What are the hybrids of Taraxacum officinale and how did they come about? B Kansai Organ Nat Conserv 26:57–63 (in Japanese)

  40. Morita T, Menken SBJ, Sterk AA (1990a) Hybridization between European and Asian dandelions (Taraxacum section Ruderalia and section Mongolica) 1. Crossability and breakdown of self-incompatibility. New Phytol 114:519–529

  41. Morita T, Sterk AA, Den Nijs JCM (1990b) The significance of agamospermous triploid pollen donors in the sexual relationships between diploids and triploids in Taraxacum (Compositae). Plant Species Biol 5:167–176

  42. Muñoz AA, Cavieres LA (2008) The presence of a showy invasive plant disrupts pollinator service and reproductive output in native alpine species only at high densities. J Ecol 96:459–467

  43. Naito T (1975) Notes on the ecesis of Taraxacum plants. Biol Sci 27:195–202 (in Japanese)

  44. Newsome AE, Noble IR (1986) Ecological and physiological characters of invading species. In: Groves RH, Burdon JJ (eds) Ecology of biological invasions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–21

  45. Ogawa K (2001) Japanese native dandelions and European dandelions. Doubutsu-Sha, Tokyo (in Japanese)

  46. Ogawa K, Mototani I (1985) Invasion of the introduced dandelions and survival of the native ones in the Tokyo metropolitan area of Japan. Jpn J Ecol 33:443–452

  47. Ogawa K, Mototani I (1991) Land-use selection by dandelions in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Japan. Ecol Res 6:233–246

  48. Ohara M, Higashi S (1994) Effects of inflorescence size on visits from pollinators and seed set of Corydalis ambigua (Papaveraceae). Oecologia 98:25–30

  49. Ohga N (1974) The significance of alien plants. Shizenkagaku-to-Hakubutukan 43:85–88 (in Japanese)

  50. Richards AJ (1973) The origin of Taraxacum agamospecies. Bot J Linn Soc 66:189–211

  51. Schemske DW, Agren J (1995) Deceit pollination and selection on female flower size in Begonia involucrate, an experimental approach. Evolution 49:207–214

  52. Shibaike H, Akiyama H, Uchiyama S, Kasai K, Morita T (2002) Hybridization between European and Asian dandelions (Taraxacum section Ruderalia and section Mongolica) 2. Natural hybrids in Japan detected by chloroplast DNA marker. J Plant Res 115:321–328

  53. SPSS Inc (2005) SPSS base 14.0 user’s guide. SPSS Inc., Chicago

  54. Totland O, Nielsen A, Bjerknes AL, Ohlson M (2006) Effects of an exotic plant and habitat disturbance on pollinator visitation and reproduction in a boreal forest herb. Am J Bot 93:868–873

  55. Verduijn MH, Van Dijk PJ, Van Damme JMM (2004) The role of tetraploids in the sexual–asexual cycle in dandelions (Taraxacum). Heredity 93:390–398

  56. Wardle DA, Nicholson KS, Ahmed M, Rahman A (1994) Interference effects of the invasive plant Carduus nutans L. against the nitrogen fixation ability of Trifolium repens L. Plant Soil 163:287–297

  57. Waser NM (1983) Competition for pollination and floral character differences among sympatric plant species: a review of evidence. In: Jones CE, Little RJ (eds) Handbook of experimental pollination biology. Van Nostrand, New York, pp 277–293

  58. Watanabe M, Ogawa M, Naito T, Kanzaki M, Shimomura H, Serizawa S (1997a) Frequency and distribution of the hybrid alien dandelions in Osaka prefecture. B Kansai Organ Nat Conserv 19:69–77 (in Japanese)

  59. Watanabe M, Maruyama Y, Serizawa S (1997b) Hybridization between native and alien dandelions in the western Tokai district: (1) frequency and morphological characters of the hybrid between Taraxacum platycarpum and T. officinale. J Jpn Bot 72:51–57 (in Japanese)

  60. Weihe PE, Neely RK (1997) The effects of shading on competition between purple loosestrife and broad-leaved cattail. Aquat Bot 59:127–138

  61. Yamano M, Shibaike H, Hamaguch T, Ide M (2002) Analysis on the distribution patterns of hybrid dandelions (Taraxacum) in Japan collaborated with the ‘Environmental Indicator Species Survey (Survey of Common Wildlife)’. Environ Inform Sci 16:357–362 (in Japanese with English summary)

Download references


We sincerely thank Drs. T. Sugimoto, Y. Sakuratani, and E. Yano for their valuable advice. We also thank T. Morita for analysing the DNA of putative T. officinale used in the study. This study was partly supported by a grant-in-aid for scientific research, no. 14740427, from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. All experiments complied with the current laws of Japan.

Author information

Correspondence to Ikuo Kandori.

Additional information

Communicated by Jeff Conner.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kandori, I., Hirao, T., Matsunaga, S. et al. An invasive dandelion unilaterally reduces the reproduction of a native congener through competition for pollination. Oecologia 159, 559–569 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-008-1250-4

Download citation


  • Dandelion Wars
  • Exploitation competition
  • Interference competition
  • Pollinator
  • Taraxacum japonicum
  • Taraxacum officinale