Have your cake and eat it too: greater dispersal ability and faster germination towards range edges of an invasive plant species in eastern Australia.
The process of range expansion often selects for traits that maximize invasion success at range edges. For example, during range expansion, individuals with greater dispersal and colonization ability will be selected for towards range edges. For wind dispersed plants, however, there exists a fundamental trade-off between dispersal and colonization ability (germination success and growth) that is mediated by seed size; smaller seeds often have greater dispersal ability but poorer colonization ability. We investigated the nature of the dispersal/colonization trade-off by comparing dispersal ability (wing loading ratio: seed mass/wing area), germination success and growth related traits across multiple populations of a coastal exotic invasive plant species (Gladiolus gueinzii Kunze) along its entire introduced distribution in eastern Australia. We found that G. gueinzii had significantly greater dispersal ability towards its range edges which was mediated by a decrease in seed mass. However, this was not associated with a decrease in probability of germination or growth after 3 months. In fact, seeds from range edge populations had significantly faster germination times. Our results suggest that a shift towards greater dispersal ability does not have an associated negative effect on the colonization ability of G. gueinzii and may be a key factor in promoting further range expansion of this exotic invasive species.