Skip to main content Accessibility help

Lumbricus terrestris Prefers to Consume Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Seeds

  • Patricia M. Quackenbush (a1), RaeLynn A. Butler (a1), Nancy C. Emery (a2), Michael A. Jenkins (a3), Eileen J. Kladivko (a4) and Kevin D Gibson (a1)...


Temperate and boreal forests in Canada and the northeastern United States have been invaded by several exotic species, including European earthworms (family Lumbricidae) and garlic mustard. Earthworms and garlic mustard co-occur and are both known to adversely impact some native plant species. However, relatively little is known about potential interactions between these two invaders. In a series of growth chamber experiments, we determined the palatability of garlic mustard and six native herbaceous forest species (shooting star, columbine, wild geranium, sweet cicely, butterfly milkweed, and yellow jewelweed) to the common nightcrawler. We also assessed the ability of the common nightcrawler to bury and digest garlic mustard and wild geranium. When offered seeds from garlic mustard and a native plant species, the earthworms ingested more garlic mustard seeds than seeds from four of the six native species. In a mesocosm experiment, the common nightcrawlers apparently digested 72 and 27% of garlic mustard and wild geranium seeds, respectively, that were placed on the soil surface. No seeds were observed on the soil surface at the end of the experiment but the majority of recovered seeds for both species were found within the top 10 cm (3.94 in). More seeds were recovered in 0- to 10-cm and 31- to 40-cm sections for wild geranium than for garlic mustard. No difference in seed recovery was detected at the other depths. Garlic mustard seed is readily consumed by common nightcrawlers and appears to be preferred over some native plant species suggesting that common nightcrawlers may reduce the size of the garlic mustard seed bank.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author's E-mail:


Hide All
Alban, D. H. and Berry, E. C. 1994. Effects of earthworm invasion on morphology, carbon and nitrogen of a forest soil. Appl. Soil Ecol. 1:243249.
Belote, R. T. and Jones, R. H. 2009. Tree leaf litter composition and non-native earthworms influence plant invasion in experimental forest floor mescosms. Biol. Invasions 11:10451052.
Bohlen, P. J., Scheu, S., Hale, C. M., McLean, M. A., Migge, S., Groffman, P. M., and Parkinson, D. 2004. Non-native invasive earthworms as agents of change in northern temperate forests. Front. Ecol. Environ. 2:427435.
Didham, R. K., Tylianakis, J. M., Hutchison, M. A., Ewers, R. M., and Gemmell, N. J. 2005. Are invasive species the drivers of ecological change? Trends Ecol. Evol. 20:470474.
Dukes, J. S. and Mooney, H. A. 1999. Does global change increase the success of biological invaders? Trends Ecol. Evol. 14:135139.
Ehrenfeld, J. G. 2003. Effects of exotic plant invasions on soil nutrient cycling processes. Ecosystems 6:503523.
Ehrenfeld, J. G., Kourtev, P., and Huang, W. Z. 2001. Changes in soil functions following invasions of exotic understory plants in deciduous forests. Ecol. Appl. 11:12871300.
Eisenhauer, N., Butenschoen, O., Radsick, S., and Scheu, S. 2010. Earthworms as seedling predators: importance of seeds and seedlings for earthworm nutrition. Soil Biol. Biochem. 42:12451252.
Eisenhauer, N. and Scheu, S. 2008. Invasibility of experimental grassland communities: the role of earthworms, plant functional group identity and seed size. Oikos 117:10261036.
Eisenhauer, N., Schuy, M., Butenschoen, O., and Scheu, S. 2009. Direct and indirect effects of endogeic earthworms on plant seeds. Pedobiologia 52:151162.
Frelich, L. E., Hale, C. M., Scheu, S., Holdsworth, A. R., Heneghan, L., Bohlen, P. J., and Reich, P. B. 2006. Earthworm invasion into previously earthworm-free temperate and boreal forests. Biol. Invasions 8:12351245.
Hale, C. M. 2007. Earthworms of the Great Lakes. Duluth, MN Kollath and Stensaas. 36 p.
Hale, C. M., Frelich, L. E., and Reich, P. B. 2005. Exotic European earthworm invasion dynamics in northern hardwood forests of Minnesota, USA. Ecol. Appl. 15:848860.
Hale, C. M., Frelich, L. E., Reich, P. B., and Pastor, J. 2008. Exotic earthworm effects on hardwood forest floor, nutrient availability and native plants: a mesocosm study. Oecologia 155:509518.
Heimpel, G. E., Frelich, L. E., Landis, D. A., Hopper, K. R., Hoelmer, K. A., Sezen, Z., Asplen, M. K., and Wu, K. M. 2010. European buckthorn and Asian soybean aphid as components of an extensive invasional meltdown in North America. Biol. Invasions 12:29132931.
Heneghan, L., Steffen, J., and Fagen, K. 2007. Interactions of an introduced shrub and introduced earthworms in an Illinois urban woodland: impact on leaf litter decomposition. Pedobiologia 50:543551.
Kalisz, P. J. 1993. Native and exotic earthworms in deciduous forest soils of eastern North America. Pages 93100 in McKnight, B. N., ed. Biological Pollution: The Control and Impact of Invasive Exotic Species. Indianapolis Indiana Academy of Science.
Kalisz, P. J. and Dotson, D. B. 1989. Land-use history and the occurrence of exotic earthworms in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Am. Midl. Nat. 122:288297.
Kladivko, E. J. 1993. Earthworms and Crop Management. West Lafayette, IN Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service AY-279. 5 p.
Kourtev, P. S., Ehrenfeld, J. G., and Haggblom, M. 2002. Exotic plant species alter the microbial community structure and function in the soil. Ecology 83:31523166.
Kourtev, P. S., Ehrenfeld, J. G., and Huang, W. Z. 1998. Effects of exotic plant species on soil properties in hardwood forests of New Jersey. Water Air Soil Poll. 105:493501.
Lawrence, B., Fisk, M. C., Fahey, T. J., and Suarez, E. R. 2003. Influence of nonnative earthworms on mycorrhizal colonization of sugar maple (Acer saccharum). New Phytol. 157:145153.
Lazcano, C., Sampedro, L., Zas, R., and Dominguez, J. 2010. Assessment of plant growth promotion by vermicompost in different progenies of maritime pine (Pinus pinaster Ait.). Compost Sci. Util. 18:111118.
MacDougall, A. S. and Turkington, R. 2005. Are invasive species the drivers or passengers of change in degraded ecosystems? Ecology 86:4255.
Madritch, M. D. and Lindroth, R. L. 2009. Removal of invasive shrub reduces exotic earthworm populations. Biol. Invasions 11:663671.
Meekins, J. F. and McCarthy, B. C. 1999. Competitive ability of Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard, Brassicaceae), an invasive, nonindigenous forest herb. Int. J. Plant Sci. 160:743752.
Milcu, A., Schumacher, J., and Scheu, S. 2006. Earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) affect plant seedling recruitment and microhabitat heterogeneity. Funct. Ecol. 20:261268.
Mooney, H. A. and Cleland, E. E. 2001. The evolutionary impact of invasive species. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 98:54465451.
Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2011. The PLANTS Database. Accessed May 15, 2011.
Nuzzo, V. A., Maerz, J. C., and Blossey, B. 2009. Earthworm invasion as the driving force behind plant invasion and community change in northeastern North American forests. Conserv. Biol. 23:966974.
Prati, D. and Bossdorf, O. 2004. Allelopathic inhibition of germination by Alliaria petiolata (Brassicaceae). Am. J. Bot. 91:285288.
Regnier, E., Harrison, S. K., Liu, J., Schmoll, J. T., Edwards, C. A., Arancon, N., and Holloman, C. 2008. Impact of an exotic earthworm on seed dispersal of an indigenous US weed. J. Appl. Ecol. 45:16211629.
Sanders, N. J., Gotelli, N. J., Heller, N. E., and Gordon, D. M. 2003. Community disassembly by an invasive species. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 100:24742477.
Shumway, D. L. and Koide, R. T. 1994. Seed preferences of Lumbricus terrestris L. Appl. Soil Ecol. 1:1115.
Simberloff, D. and Von Holle, B. 1999. Positive interactions of nonindigenous species: invasional meltdown? Biol. Invasions 1:2132.
Stinson, K. A., Campbell, S. A., Powell, J. R., Wolfe, B. E., Callaway, R. M., Thelen, G. C., Hallett, S. G., Prati, D., and Klironomos, J. N. 2006. Invasive plant suppresses the growth of native tree seedlings by disrupting belowground mutualisms. PLoS Biol. 4:727731.
Vitousek, P. M., D'Antonio, C. M., Loope, L. L., and Westbrooks, R. 1996. Biological invasions as global environmental change. Am. Sci. 84:468478.
Willems, J. H. and Huijsmans, K. G. A. 1994. Vertical seed dispersal by earthworms: a quantitative approach. Ecography 17:124130.
Yatskievych, K. 2002. Field Guide to Indiana Wildflowers. Bloomington Indiana University Press. 357 p.
Zavaleta, E. S., Hobbs, R. J., and Mooney, H. A. 2001. Viewing invasive species removal in a whole-ecosystem context. Trends Ecol. Evol. 16:454459.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Lumbricus terrestris Prefers to Consume Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Seeds

  • Patricia M. Quackenbush (a1), RaeLynn A. Butler (a1), Nancy C. Emery (a2), Michael A. Jenkins (a3), Eileen J. Kladivko (a4) and Kevin D Gibson (a1)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.