Photosynthesis, Growth, and Water-use Efficiency of Carolina Buckthorn: Comparisons to the Invasive Common Buckthorn

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  • 1 Iowa State Univ., Horticulture Dept., Ames, Iowa, 50011-1100
  • | 2 Iowa State Univ., Horticulture Dept., Ames, Iowa, 50011-1100

Some buckthorn species from other continents have proven invasive in North American landscapes. Carolina buckthorn (Rhamnus caroliniana Walt.) is an attractive, native species that would merit increased use in horticultural landscapes if concerns about its potential invasiveness are allayed. Invasiveness often is associated with efficient use of water and other resources. We tested for differences between Carolina buckthorn and common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.) in photosynthesis, aboveground dry matter accumulation, and water-use efficiency. Seedlings were grown in columns of field soil within insulated pots outdoors for 98 days. Net photosynthesis of Carolina buckthorn was 17% to 39% greater than that of common buckthorn through day 22. This difference between species was reversed through the end of the treatment period with a concomitant increase in leaf temperature of Carolina buckthorn. Final dry weight of aboveground tissues was similar for the two species, but a greater proportion of dry matter was partitioned to stems for common buckthorn compared to Carolina buckthorn. Although common buckthorn initially had higher water-use efficiency (110 mg·g-1 per day) than did Carolina buckthorn (60 mg·g-1 per day), the water-use efficiency of both species decreased to similar values for the remainder of the treatment period. We conclude that young plants of common buckthorn do not use water more efficiently than do young Carolina buckthorn under field conditions in central Iowa. Considering the possible species differences in the relationship between temperature and photosynthesis, comparative water-use efficiency should be tested further in other environments where Carolina buckthorn might be used for landscaping.

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