Polyploidy-promoted phenolic metabolism confers the increased competitive ability of Solidago canadensis.
Allelopathy plays an important role in the successful invasion of alien invasive plants. Phenolic compounds are one of the primary classes of secondary metabolites with strong allelopathic activities. Polyploidy can cause significant effects on the production and yield of plant secondary metabolites. However, the effect of allelopathic potential of phenolic compounds on the competitiveness of different geographical cytotypes of Solidago canadensis remains unknown. We conducted a common garden field experiment in the invasive habitat of China to compare the competitive ability of native and introduced diploid, tetraploid and hexaploid S. canadensis against intentionally planted local weeds. Results showed that introduced tetraploids and hexaploids outcompeted local plants and formed a monodominant community due to superior competitive ability. Phenolic metabolism analysis showed these populations had a high accumulation of total phenolic compounds in aerial parts and rhizosphere soil throughout three developmental stages, which contributed to significant allelopathic effects on tested weeds. However, diploids and native polyploids showed less allelopathic activities due to the low level of total phenolic content. Together, these results suggest polyploidization is one of the reasons that driving the differentiation of phenolic metabolism in different geo-cytotypes of S. canadensis, and the allelopathic abilities of introduced polyploids are further enhanced through a post-introduction adaptive evolution. Polyploidy-promoted allelopathic potential makes introduced polyploids more competitive against local plants than diploids and native polyploids, which contribute to its successful invasion.