Insect herbivory has variable consequences on plant physiology, growth, and reproduction. In some plants, herbivory reduces photosynthetic rate (Pn) activity on remaining tissue of injured leaves. We sought to better understand the influence of leaf injury on Pn of common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca (Asclepiadaceae), leaves. Initially, we tested whether Pn reductions occurred after insect herbivory or mechanical injury. We also (1) examined the duration of photosynthetic recovery, (2) compared mechanical injury with insect herbivory, (3) studied the relationship between leaf Pn with leaf injury intensity, and (4) considered uninjured leaf compensatory Pn responses neighboring an injured leaf. Leaf Pn was significantly reduced on mechanically injured or insect-fed leaves in all reported experiments except one, so some factor(s) (cardiac glycoside induction, reproductive investment, and water stress) likely interacts with leaf injury to influence whether Pn impairment occurs. Milkweed tussock moth larval herbivory, Euchaetes egle L. (Arctiidae), impaired leaf Pn more severely than mechanical injury in one experiment. Duration of Pn impairment lasted >5 d to indicate high leaf Pn sensitivity to injury, but Pn recovery occurred within 13 d in one experiment. The degree of Pn reduction was more severe from E. egle herbivory than similar levels of mechanical tissue removal. Negative linear relationships characterized leaf Pn with percentage tissue loss from single E. egle–fed leaves and mechanically injured leaves and suggested that the signal to trigger leaf Pn impairment on remaining tissue of an injured leaf was amplified by additional tissue loss. Finally, neighboring uninjured leaves to an E. egle–fed leaf had a small (≈10%) degree of compensatory Pn to partly offset tissue loss and injured leaf Pn impairment.
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