Potential Interference Between a Threatened Endemic Thistle and an Invasive Nonnative Plant

Laura Foster Huenneke, James K. Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Although the establishment of nonnative plants is recognized as a threat to native ecosystems, there are few documented examples of an invasive species directly influencing a rare native plant. The Eurasian biennial Dipsacus sylvestris (teasel) is invading the central New Mexico habitat of Cirsium vinaceum, an endemic thistle that is federally listed as threatened. We documented changes in teasel distribution and abundance between 1989 and 1993 that suggest the potential for direct interactions with the native thistle. We then compared habitat characteristics, germination behavior, and performance in greenhouse and field competition trials to evaluate the potential outcome of interference between these two species. There were no significant differences in measured habitat characteristics between sites supporting C. vinaceum and those with D. sylvestris. Dipsacus was better able to germinate in low light than the thistle, suggesting that D. sylvestris might invade C. vinaceum populations but that thistle recruitment would be unlikely in dense stands of the nonnative plants. In the greenhouse growth of C. vinaceum rosettes was significantly reduced by the presence of Dipsacus, but the invader was unaffected by the thistle; results of a short‐term field experiment were equivocal but suggestive of interference between the two. We suggest criteria for managers to use in determining whether invading species pose problems for specific rare native taxa, and we discuss the constraints on experimental work where protected taxa are involved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-425
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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