Reduced resistance of invasive varieties of the alien tree Sapium sebiferum to a generalist herbivore. Academic Article uri icon


  • Invasive plants are often larger in their introduced range compared to their native range. This may reflect an evolved reduction in defense and increase in growth in response to low herbivory in their introduced range. Key elements of this scenario include genetic differences in defense and growth yet uniformly low rates of herbivory in the field that dissociate defense and herbivore damage for alien species. We conducted a laboratory experiment with Melanoplus angustipennis grasshoppers and Chinese Tallow Tree seedlings ( Sapium sebiferum) from its native range (China) and its introduced range (Texas, USA) where it is invasive. We caged grasshoppers with pairs of Sapium seedlings from the same continent or different continents. The amounts of leaf area removed from Texas and China seedlings, and their height growth rates, were indistinguishable when both seedlings in the pair were from the same continent. However, when grasshoppers had a choice between seedlings from different continents, they removed more Texas Sapium foliage than China Sapium foliage and height growth rates were higher for China Sapium seedlings compared to Texas seedlings. Grasshopper growth rates increased with greater Sapium foliage consumption. In a common garden in Texas, Sapium seedlings from Texas grew 40% faster than those from China. Chewing insect herbivores removed little Sapium foliage in the field experiment. Although grasshoppers preferred to feed on Texas Sapium when offered a choice in the laboratory, extremely low herbivory levels in the field may have allowed the Texas seedlings to outperform the China seedlings in the common garden. These results demonstrate post-invasion genetic differences in herbivore resistance and growth of an invasive plant species together with a decoupling of defense and herbivore choice in the introduced range.

published proceedings

  • Oecologia

author list (cited authors)

  • Siemann, E., & Rogers, W. E.

citation count

  • 115

complete list of authors

  • Siemann, Evan||Rogers, William E

publication date

  • May 2003