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Soil characteristics drive Ficaria verna abundance and reproductive output

  • Justin P. Kermack (a1) and Emily S. J. Rauschert (a2)


Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna Huds.), an invasive plant from Europe, is becoming widespread in river valleys throughout the northeastern United States and the Pacific Northwest. Its high rate of asexual bulbil and tuber production creates dense infestations threatening native spring ephemerals. Ficaria verna abundance and reproductive output (seeds, bulbils, and tubers) were examined in invaded transects spanning a disturbance gradient away from a river. Site characteristics (photosynthetically active radiation [PAR], soil pH, moisture, texture, and nutrients) were quantified to examine their roles in plant abundance and reproduction. A larger-scale study examined random transects not specifically chosen based on F. verna infestations. Soil characteristics and slope were hypothesized to drive F. verna abundance and reproduction; we also hypothesized that reproductive output and biomass would be highest at intermediate distances from rivers, where disturbances are infrequent. Ficaria verna abundance and reproductive output varied considerably by site; soil characteristics, rather than landscape placement, appeared to drive plant abundance and reproduction. Lower percent sand was associated with significantly higher F. verna stem density and bulbil and tuber production. CEC was significantly negatively related to F. verna biomass and tuber counts. In the larger-scale survey, slope and PAR were significantly negatively related to F. verna presence and percent cover, respectively. Overall, these findings suggest that soil texture and slope can help explain higher abundance and reproductive outputs. However, reproductive output and biomass were not significantly greater at intermediate distances, contrary to expectations. We did not observe any seed production in any of the plots, although we did see a few plants with seeds outside our study area in the second year, demonstrating a near-complete reliance on asexual reproduction in these populations. This study expands on the current limited understanding of F. verna and can help management by identifying areas likely to support dense infestations.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Emily S. J. Rauschert, Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Cleveland State University, 2121 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115. (Email:


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Associate Editor: Jacob N. Barney, Virginia Tech



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Soil characteristics drive Ficaria verna abundance and reproductive output

  • Justin P. Kermack (a1) and Emily S. J. Rauschert (a2)


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