Allelopathic effect of the invasive Acacia dealbata Link (Fabaceae) on two native plant species in south-central Chile.
Plant species that growth close to or under the canopy of Acacia dealbata Link (Fabaceae, subfamily: Mimosoideae) within its non-native range, survive with difficulty or not at all, especially if they are native. This phenomenon has been attributed to allelopathy; one of the strategies used by A. dealbata to trigger an invasion process. Native species Quillaja saponaria Molina (tree) and Helenium aromaticum (Hook.) H.L. Bailey (herb), share A. dealbata's range in South-central Chile. This study was performed on the Mediterranean Biobío Region of Chile. We evaluated the effect of leaves, flowers, pods and seeds of A. dealbata on the germination and early growth of these native species. Biological assays were carried out under laboratory conditions, based on aqueous extracts and the direct effect of plant material. Leaf litter prevented the germination of both species and seeds of the invasive species impeded the germination of Q. saponaria. Other plant parts from A. dealbata also induced reductions of hypocotyl and radicle lengths in the native species, reaching over 50% in some treatment values. All plant parts caused radicle necrosis, preventing the formation of root hairs and, consequently, jeopardizing the survival possibility of the recipient species. The results show that A. dealbata can interfere with the establishment of pioneer herbaceous species in ecological succession and can also affect trees if they are reached by the invasion front.