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Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) is one of the most noxious invasive species in the world. The fern is known to have primary, secondary, and tertiary growth forms, which are also commonly hypothesized as growth stages. The identification of these forms is primarily based on the size and folding status of the floating leaves. However, we identified 12 forms in the greenhouse and the field. Our experiments showed that the folding of floating leaves is a reversible trait dependent on water access. The floating leaves quickly fold in response to water shortage, reducing water loss and needs, decreasing growth, and avoiding trichome damage. The leaves re-open to allow trichomes repel water and enhance growth when having adequate water supply. Larger secondary or tertiary forms do not produce small-leaf primary forms without high intensity stress. These results do not support the hypothesis that three growth forms represent sequential growth stages. The abnormal small-leaf forms are the result of endocide-induced autotoxicity and some of them never grow into other forms. The development of abnormal forms and reversible leaf folding strategy in response to high stress along with rapid asexual reproduction are major adaptive traits contributing to the invasiveness of S. molesta.


Li, S., Wang, P., Su, Z., Lozano, E., LaMaster, O., Grogan, J. B., … McGarrity, M. (2018). Endocide-Induced Abnormal Growth Forms of Invasive Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta). Scientific reports, 8(1), 8006.




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