Russian knapweed is an outcrossing perennial invasive weed in North America that can spread by both seed and horizontal rhizomic growth leading to new shoots. The predominant mode of spread at the local scale and dispersal at the long-distance scale informs control but has not been quantitatively researched. We used amplified fragment-length polymorphisms (AFLPs) of DNA collected from 174 shoots in two discrete patches of Russian knapweed at each of three locations in Montana. Out of the 174 shoots collected, we found nine AFLP genotypes. Three out of the six patches were monotypic; the other three patches each had one rare genotype. No genotypes were shared between patches. The maximum diameter of a genet (a genetic individual) was 56.5 m. These results indicate that patch expansion at the local scale is almost entirely by rhizomes that spread and develop new shoots. At the long-distance scale, dispersal is by seed. Controlling seed development through biological control and herbicide use may be effective at stopping long-distance dispersal but may not affect expansion of existing patches.
Nomenclature: Russian knapweed, Acroptilon repens (L.) DC, Rhaponticum repens (L.) Hidalgo, Centaurea repens L.