Plastic responses that confer invasiveness to Rivina humilis L.
Rivina humilis L. (Petiveriaceae) is an invasive plant occurring throughout the tropics and subtropics. As successful plant invasion involves phenotypic plasticity; rapid seed germination and high competitiveness through the release of allelochemicals, the reasons behind the ability of R. humilis to establish and thrive under diverse environmental conditions were explored through series of experiments. The influence of different soil types (Alluvial, Alfisol, Vertisol and Laterite), pH (4-10) and nutrient concentrations (0-100%) on seed germination and seedling development of R. humilis were examined. The effect of aqueous leaf or fruit pulp extracts on seed germination and seedling development of different test plants was determined. The role of root endophytic fungi on plant growth was assessed by growing R. humilis in the presence and absence of fungi. Shade tolerance was investigated by growing R. humilis under different light intensities and measuring the photosynthetic rates. The results of the study indicate that R. humilis was able to grow in different soil types and pH levels. As the fruit pulp fails to affect seed germination or development of test plants (finger millet, green gram, brinjal, maize) increasing concentrations of leaf extract negatively influenced these processes. Seed germination of R. humilis decreased at the highest alkaline pH 10 and increasing light intensity negatively affects the leaf chlorophyll content, photosynthetic rate and plant growth. The stomatal conductivity and transpiration rate of plants are not consistent under varying light intensities . R. humilis is not mycorrhizal dependent. These results suggest that R. humilis possess a wide range of plastic responses to different environmental conditions that could significantly contribute to the success in invading new habitats.