Contrasting plant physiological adaptation to climate in the native and introduced range of Hypericum perforatum

John L. Maron, Sarah C. Elmendorf, Montserrat Vilà

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96 Citations (Scopus)


How introduced plants, which may be locally adapted to specific climatic conditions in their native range, cope with the new abiotic conditions that they encounter as exotics is not well understood. In particular, it is unclear what role plasticity versus adaptive evolution plays in enabling exotics to persist under new environmental circumstances in the introduced range. We determined the extent to which native and introduced populations of St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) are genetically differentiated with respect to leaf-level morphological and physiological traits that allow plants to tolerate different climatic conditions. In common gardens in Washington and Spain, and in a greenhouse, we examined clinal variation in percent leaf nitrogen and carbon, leaf δ13C values (as an integrative measure of water use efficiency), specific leaf area (SLA), root and shoot biomass, root/shoot ratio, total leaf area, and leaf area ratio (LAR). As well, we determined whether native European H. perforatum experienced directional selection on leaf-level traits in the introduced range and we compared, across gardens, levels of plasticity in these traits. In field gardens in both Washington and Spain, native populations formed latitudinal clines in percent leaf N. In the greenhouse, native populations formed latitudinal clines in root and shoot biomass and total leaf area, and in the Washington garden only, native populations also exhibited latitudinal clines in percent leaf C and leaf δ13C. Traits that failed to show consistent latitudinal clines instead exhibited significant phenotypic plasticity. Introduced St. John's Wort populations also formed significant or marginally significant latitudinal clines in percent leaf N in Washington and Spain, percent leaf C in Washington, and in root biomass and total leaf area in the greenhouse. In the Washington common garden, there was strong directional selection among European populations for higher percent leaf N and leaf δ13C, but no selection on any other measured trait. The presence of convergent, genetically based latitudinal clines between native and introduced H. perforatum, together with previously published molecular data, suggest that native and exotic genotypes have independently adapted to a broad-scale variation in climate that varies with latitude. © 2007 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1912-1924
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2007


  • Common gardens
  • Exotic plants
  • Hypericum perforatum
  • Latitudinal clines
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Rapid evolution


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