Factors restraining parasitism of the invasive vine Mikania micrantha by the holoparasitic plant Cuscuta campestris
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Mikania micrantha (Asteraceae) is one of the 10 most invasive weeds in the world and has caused tremendous economic and environmental losses in southern China. The dodder Cuscuta campestris (Convolvulaceae) is a native holoparasite that can parasitize and suppress M. micrantha, and thus is recommended as an effective control agent. However, the natural growth of dodder lags behind that of M. micrantha and fails to exert direct year-round suppression. To verify the effective parasitic distance, we placed a dodder seedling at a designated distance from the stem of M. micrantha and monitored coiling, haustorium formation, and survival. To verify suitable host stems for the parasite, we grew M. micrantha for more than 6 months to form stems of different sizes, taped dodder seedlings to the stems, and monitored. We used various temperatures to determine the effect on dodder seed germination and M. micrantha sprouting. The results showed that a dodder–host distance of 4 cm decreased the probability of successful parasitism to 0; dodder seedlings cannot parasitize M. micrantha stem diameters ≥0.3 cm; and the temperatures for the highest dodder seed germination and M. micrantha sprouting are 26 and 30 °C, respectively. We conclude that the lack of suitable M. micrantha parts within the dodder’s effective parasitism distance is the major cause of restricted dodder parasitism and that the lower temperature for the highest dodder germination compared to that for the highest M. micrantha sprouting may decrease the possibility of parasitism. To acquire aggressive parasitism, dodder should be manually assisted by dispersing its vegetative form.
KeywordsInvasive weed Parasitic plant Germination Sprout Infection
We are grateful to Martin J. Booth for refining this manuscript and to two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments, which greatly improved our study. This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 30370243); the Science and Technology Department of Shenzhen, China (Grant no. 2007 No. 5); the Foundation of Human Settlements and Environment Commission of Shenzhen Municipality (Grant no. 2009); and the Special Fund for Agro-scientific Research in the Public Interest (Grant no. 201103027).
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