Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata (M. Bieb.) Cavara & Grande, is an introduced biennial forb that has commonly been referred to as highly invasive and as having substantial negative effects on other plants in the eastern deciduous forests of North America. However, several recent studies have documented only modest effects on other plant species, raising questions as to the extent of the threat really posed by A. petiolata. Alliaria petiolata often exhibits an alternating two-year life-history cycle, with high rosette years alternating with high flowering stem years. It has been proposed that this cycle is partly driven by intraspecific competition between the stems and the rosettes. In a two-year study, we extensively sampled A. petiolata in a Minnesota woodland at two spatial scales, including 6.5 km of belt transects in a 6.8 ha study grid (20 × 20 m cells) and 90 small sampling quadrats (1.0 × 0.5 m) within the grid. At the large scale, we compared seed bank abundance and diversity of other herbaceous plants with A. petiolata abundance. Using the monitoring data we also investigated whether this population was exhibiting an alternating two-year life-history cycle, consistent with the intraspecific competition hypothesis for this phenomenon. At the small scale, we compared A. petiolata abundance with the abundance of other plants, including herbs, ferns, shrubs, and tree seedlings. We also conducted an ex-situ pot experiment in which we planted seeds of six tree species in soil collected from dense A. petiolata patches and soil collected where A. petiolata was absent and recorded emergence rates and seedling growth over an 8 wk period. Overall, we found little evidence that A. petiolata was negatively affecting other plant species. This is consistent with other recent studies and indicates that, despite earlier claims to the contrary, A. petiolata seems to be more a product than an agent of change in eastern North American deciduous forests. We also documented an alternating two-year life-history cycle, providing additional evidence to support the hypothesis that this cycle is at least partly being driven by intraspecific competition.
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