The spread of species far from their native range is an important component of global changes. Investigating the ability of alien plants to invade different habitats is one of the most important approaches in the analysis of biological invasion mechanisms.
The study was based on floristic research carried out in 1998–2002 in the north-western part of Poland. The habitats sampled were classified according to the EUNIS classification. A dataset of 2638 naturalized neophyte records was compiled based on a total of 2132 floristic lists. Species entries were supplemented with data on taxonomic position (family), origin, frequency, life form and number of habitats a particular species colonises. Ordination analyses showed the level of disturbance in individual habitats to be important in species-habitats relationships. Some of the species (e.g. Chamomilla suaveolens, Galinsoga parviflora, Veronica persica) occurred mainly in man-made, heavily disturbed habitats, while others (e.g. Impatiens parviflora, Padus serotina, Quercus rubra) were present primarily in natural habitats, less affected by humans. The species with the broadest habitat ranges identified included, i.a. Conyza canadensis, Impatiens parviflora, Epilobium ciliatum, and Oxalis fontana. Most of them, however, had different “core” habitats. Some species, e.g. Juncus tenuis, Elodea canadensis, Veronica persica were associated with one or a few habitats. The ability of species to invade numerous habitat types did not depend on their invasive status. The most successful aliens are those which spread dynamically along forest paths as well as those penetrating forest communities. The phytocoenotic role of each naturalized neophyte in plant communities requires a detailed study.
Each individual habitat supports well-established alien species whose traits fit its characteristics and the disturbance intensity. Analysis of alien species traits, local distribution, habitat preferences and range makes it possible to reliably assess potentially successful invaders.