Low allelopathic potential of an invasive forage grass on native grassland plants: A cause for encouragement?

Ian J. Renne, Bianca G. Rios, Jeffrey S. Fehmi, Benjamin F. Tracy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.), a highly competitive European grass that invades US grasslands, is reportedly allelopathic to many agronomic plants, but its ability to inhibit the germination or growth of native grassland plants is unknown. In three factorial glasshouse experiments, we tested the potential allelopathic effects of endophyte-infected (E+) and uninfected (E-) tall fescue on native grasses and forbs from Midwestern tallgrass prairies. Relative to a water control, at least one extract made from ground seed, or ground whole plant tissue of E+ or E- tall fescue reduced the germination of 10 of 11 species in petri dishes. In addition, the emergence of two native grasses in potting soil was lower when sown with E+ and E- tall fescue seedlings than when sown with seeds of conspecifics or tall fescue. However, when seeds of 13 prairie species were sown in sterilized, field-collected soil and given water or one of the four tall fescue extracts daily, seedling emergence was lower in one extract relative to water for only one species, and subsequent height growth did not differ among treatments for any species. We conclude that if tall fescue is allelopathic, its inhibitory effects on the germination and seedling growth of native prairie plants are limited, irrespective of endophyte infection. On the other hand, the apparent inability of these plants to detect tall fescue in field soil could hinder prairie restoration efforts if germination near this strong competitor confers fitness consequences. We propose that lack of chemical recognition may be common among resident and recently introduced non-indigenous plants because of temporally limited ecological interactions, and offer a view that challenges the existing allelopathy paradigm. Lastly, we suggest that tall fescue removal will have immediate benefits to the establishment of native grassland plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-269
Number of pages9
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004


  • Allelopathy
  • Biochemical recognition
  • Competition
  • Exotic invasions
  • Festuca arundinacea
  • Restoration
  • Tall fescue
  • Tallgrass prairie

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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