Reproductive success of Acacia longifolia (Fabaceae, Mimosoideae) in native and invasive populations.
The reproductive biology of exotic species affects their capacity to become naturalised and invasive in non-native areas. Selfing is a common trait in many invasive plants probably because it provides reproductive assurance under low availability of pollination vectors and sexual partners. Nonetheless, the predominantly self-incompatible Australian Acacia species are among the most aggressive plants worldwide. To address whether there have been changes in selfing ability and natural reproductive success of A. longifolia during invasion, we compared one population in the invaded area (Portugal) with one population in the native range (Australia). We specifically assessed floral traits, fruit set and offspring traits for selfing and open-pollination treatments. Within each pollination treatment, no differences were found between areas, suggesting that the level of self-compatibility has not changed during invasion. However, the number of aborted seeds and seed size were significantly different between pollination treatments in Australia but not in Portugal. There were significant differences in the number of seeds per pod and in seed weight between ranges. A lower number of aborted seeds, a higher number of fully developed seeds and a greater seed size were found in the invaded area for both pollination treatments. In spite of the low selfing ability of A. longifolia in the invaded area, there was an increase in the quantity and size of the seeds produced in the new region, even for self-pollinated fruits, which might contribute to A. longifolia invasiveness.