Folia Geobotanica

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 103–113 | Cite as

The effect of the dominant grass Festuca rupicola on the establishment of rare forbs in semi-dry grasslands

  • Monika Partzsch
  • Maria Faulhaber
  • Tim Meier


Establishment is the most sensitive process in the life-cycle of plant species, and each stage – from germination to survival and growth – can be affected by environmental factors and plant traits. We hypothesized that the dominant tussock grass Festuca rupicola negatively affects forb establishment in semi-dry grasslands where it has recently expanded into. Moreover, we expected that seedling recruitment is affected by grass density and seed size, with larger seeded forbs being more successful in areas of higher grass density. In a garden experiment, we sowed seven forb individuals of differing seed size (smallest to largest: Veronica spicata < Dianthus carthusianorum < Plantago media < Biscutella laevigata < Filipendula vulgaris < Scabiosa ochroleuca < Sanguisorba minor) into pots with zero, one, two and three grass individuals, and assessed germination, survival and growth over one year. As expected, increasing grass density negatively affected germination, survival and growth of forbs; however, contrary to our expectation, seed size did not influence any of parameters measured. The response of each individual species varied from zero or weak to strong with respect to grass density. Festuca rupicola therefore acts as a strong competitor against the establishment of forbs, irrespective of their seed size, and its spread lowers species diversity in semi-dry grasslands.


Garden experiment Seed size Seedling recruitment Species competition Species dynamics 



We are very thankful to the editor-in-chief, the associated editor and the two anonymous referees for their helpful comments, all of which helped to make the manuscript more constructive. We also thank Isabell Hensen and Anselm Krumbiegel for their helpful remarks on the first version of our manuscript, and Christine Voigt for her technical help, and Daniel McCluskey for checking our English.

Supplementary material

12224_2017_9298_MOESM1_ESM.doc (56 kb)
Fig. S1 (DOC 56 kb)
12224_2017_9298_MOESM2_ESM.doc (22 kb)
Table S1 (DOC 22 kb)
12224_2017_9298_MOESM3_ESM.doc (42 kb)
Table S2 (DOC 42 kb)


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Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biology/Geobotany and Botanical GardenMartin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalle (Saale)Germany

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