While some plants have modified seed structures to facilitate dispersal, many lack such specialised adaptations, making their mode of dispersal unclear. This can be particularly problematic for predicting shifts in species ranges or tracking the spread of invasive plants. As an example, the seed size and shape of the invasive legume, Lespedeza cuneata, suggest that wind and attachment to animals are not important for dispersal, yet populations can spread surprising distances within a few years. Using a series of experiments conducted in the laboratory and field, we tested wind and mammal fur as mediators of seed dispersal. To test wind dispersal, seed traps were arranged radially around a patch of L. cuneata and seeds were collected following dispersal. Attachment to mammal fur was tested by fitting pelts of a deer, coyote and raccoon to artificial torsos and determining seed retention in both the field and the laboratory. Laboratory trials also examined the influence of wet versus dry conditions. Our results showed that wind direction strongly influenced dispersal distance and seeds were readily dispersed by mammal fur. The number of seeds retained was species specific, depending on fur depth and mammal size, with seed retention increasing under wet conditions. Together, these results suggest that both wind and mammal fur contribute to the movement of L. cuneata across grasslands. Consequently, both dispersal vectors should be considered when designing and implementing control strategies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Plant Science
- Lespedeza cuneata