Dispersal and reproductive traits of successful plant invaders are expected to undergo strong selection during biological invasions. Numerous Asteraceae are invasive and display dimorphic fruits within a single flower head, resulting in differential dispersal pathways - wind-dispersed fruits vs. non-dispersing fruits. We explored ecotypic differentiation and phenotypic plasticity of seed output and fruit dimorphisms in exotic Chilean and native Spanish populations of Leontodon saxatilis subsp. rothii. We collected flower heads from populations in Spain and Chile along a rainfall gradient. Seeds from all populations were planted in reciprocal transplant trials in Spain and Chile to explore their performance in the native and invasive range. We scored plant biomass, reproductive investment and fruit dimorphism. We observed strong plasticity, where plants grown in the invasive range had much greater biomass, flower head size and seed output, with a higher proportion of wind-dispersed fruits, than those grown in the native range. We also observed a significant ecotype effect, where the exotic populations displayed higher proportions of wind-dispersed fruits than native populations. Together, these patterns reflect a combination of phenotypic plasticity and ecotypic differentiation, indicating that Leontodon saxatilis has probably increased propagule pressure and dispersal distances in its invasive range to enhance its invasiveness.
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- invasive plants