Common ragweed is a native annual that colonizes disturbed habitats including agricultural fields and roadsides. It is especially abundant along roadways receiving regular applications of deicing salt. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that the emergence of common ragweed seedlings often occurs before the emergence of other roadside species and at salinity concentrations as high as 400 mM L−1, a level that can be found in roadside soils in early spring. However, the extent of this tolerance to salinity in common ragweed populations has not been quantified. The objective of this study was to assess the germination behavior of common ragweed seeds collected from three roadside and two agricultural populations across a salinity gradient. Seed germination of these five populations was monitored daily for 21 d across a sodium chloride gradient [0, 100, 200, 300, and 400 mM L−1] under controlled conditions. Seeds from roadside populations showed consistently greater total germination and rate of germination than seeds from agricultural populations. Germination differences were most evident at the 300 and 400 mM L−1 salinity concentrations. Average germination at the 400 mM L−1 sodium chloride concentration was 31% for two roadside populations and only 3% for two agricultural populations. Germination of seeds placed in distilled water after the 21-d salinity exposure treatments (i.e., recovery rates) was also greater for the roadside vs. agricultural populations. Findings indicate that the germination behavior of common ragweed seeds to salinity for roadside populations may be locally adaptive and allows common ragweed to emerge relatively early in spring thus providing a competitive advantage over later emerging roadside plants.
Nomenclature: Common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia L., AMBEL.