Demography of the invasive geophyte Oxalis pes-caprae across a Mediterranean Island

Montserrat Vilà, Ignasi Bartomeus, Isabel Gimeno, Anna Traveset, Eva Moragues

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims: Success during the early stages of the life-history of alien plants is essential for invasion to occur. The reproductive components of plant invaders have mostly been studied in species reproducing sexually but little is known about invaders that depend exclusively on vegetative reproduction. In this paper, the importance of the different recruitment stages on population growth is quantified and, thus, the invasion potential of the South African annual geophyte Oxalis pes-caprae invading Mediterranean ecosystems is assessed. Methods: Tests and experiments were conducted across Menorca (Balearic Islands) to analyse the spatial variability of Oxalis pes-caprae reproductive components (i.e. bulb production, bulb bank, bulb predation, bulb mortality, bulb dormancy, bulb germination, plant establishment and survival). Key Results: Oxalis pes-caprae has a transient bulb bank that remains dormant in the soil during summer. High levels of bulb predation after dispersal, followed by bulb mortality during summer or a failure to germinate in autumn were the most critical factors limiting plant establishment. Bulb germination was high. However, plant establishment and bulb production is constrained by intraspecific competition, but is not affected by soil disturbance. No symptoms of spatial discordance could be found between recruitment stages because the spatial variability of the life cycle was extremely low at all the scales examined (i.e. among populations, habitats and microsites). It was estimated that, on average, 4 % of bulbs can become plants the following year and the field rate of population increase (λ) to be 0·08. Conclusions: The results suggest that invasion is constrained by post-dispersal bulb predation, loss of viability of the propagule bank due to summer drought and high intraspecific competition. However, a high spatial concordance between recruitment stages and probably a high propagule pressure due to human and livestock bulb dispersal determine the success of this invader across Menorca Island. © The Author 2006. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1062
JournalHandbook of Environmental Chemistry, Volume 5: Water Pollution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006


  • Alien plant
  • Asexual reproduction
  • Bermuda butter-cup (soursob)
  • Bulb production
  • Disturbance
  • Geophyte
  • Menorca Island
  • Microsite
  • Oxalis pes-caprae
  • Plant establishment and survival
  • Post-dispersal bulb predation


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