A good way to check hypotheses that explain the invasion of ecosystems by exotic plants is to compare congeneric alien and native species. To test the hypothesis that alien invaders grow faster than natives, the maximum relative growth rate and its components were compared in controlled growth conditions between four Senecio species, two aliens introduced from southern Africa (S. inaequidens and S. pterophorus) and two European natives (S. malacitanus and S. jacobaea). The four species colonize similar habitats, but the frequency and abundance of their populations and their distribution ranges differ. The two aliens showed a higher relative growth rate than the natives, and although there were differences between species for leaf area ratio, leaf dry matter content, and dry matter partition between stems, leaves, and roots, no clear pattern was detected to explain the differences in growth rates: several combinations of the components of the relative growth rate can give similar results. The higher relative growth rate of the alien species, combined with other ecological and life-history traits, may enhance their invasive capacity.
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Vol. 12 • No. 1