Manipulating plant litter to direct successional trajectories is rarely considered as a management strategy. Our objective was to determine the influence of litter from an intact native plant community on a community dominated by an invasive species within the same habitat type as well as the influence of litter from a community dominated by an invasive species on an intact native plant community. We hypothesized that litter amount, type (source), and fragment size would influence various functional groups within a native plant community differently than within a weed-dominated plant community. We used reciprocal plant litter exchanges between native and invasive plant–dominated grasslands to gain an initial understanding of litter's influence on the density and biomass of native grasses, native forbs, common St. Johnswort, and downy brome. Common St. Johnswort was not influenced by any treatment. Native grass density increased with application of low (454 g/m2) amounts of litter where the grasses were subordinate to common St. Johnswort, and adding native plant litter to the weedy site nearly doubled native grass biomass. Low amounts of finely fragmented litter and high amounts of coarse litter induced native forbs to produce about twice the biomass as found in the non–litter-amended controls. Our study suggests that plant litter may be a component of vegetation that can be managed to shift the plant community toward those plants that are desired.
Nomenclature: Downy brome, Bromus tectorum L., common St. Johnswort, Hypericum perforatum L.