Marketing time predicts naturalization of horticultural plants

Ecology. 2009 Jan;90(1):69-80. doi: 10.1890/07-1516.1.


Horticulture is an important source of naturalized plants, but our knowledge about naturalization frequencies and potential patterns of naturalization in horticultural plants is limited. We analyzed a unique set of data derived from the detailed sales catalogs (1887-1930) of the most important early Florida, USA, plant nursery (Royal Palm Nursery) to detect naturalization patterns of these horticultural plants in the state. Of the 1903 nonnative species sold by the nursery, 15% naturalized. The probability of plants becoming naturalized increases significantly with the number of years the plants were marketed. Plants that became invasive and naturalized were sold for an average of 19.6 and 14.8 years, respectively, compared to 6.8 years for non-naturalized plants, and the naturalization of plants sold for 30 years or more is 70%. Unexpectedly, plants that were sold earlier were less likely to naturalize than those sold later. The nursery's inexperience, which caused them to grow and market many plants unsuited to Florida during their early period, may account for this pattern. Plants with pantropical distributions and those native to both Africa and Asia were more likely to naturalize (42%), than were plants native to other smaller regions, suggesting that plants with large native ranges were more likely to naturalize. Naturalization percentages also differed according to plant life form, with the most naturalization occurring in aquatic herbs (36.8%) and vines (30.8%). Plants belonging to the families Araceae, Apocynaceae, Convolvulaceae, Moraceae, Oleaceae, and Verbenaceae had higher than expected naturalization. Information theoretic model selection indicated that the number of years a plant was sold, alone or together with the first year a plant was sold, was the strongest predictor of naturalization. Because continued importation and marketing of nonnative horticultural plants will lead to additional plant naturalization and invasion, a comprehensive approach to address this problem, including research to identifyand select noninvasive forms and types of horticultural plants is urgently needed.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Ecosystem
  • Florida
  • Marketing*
  • Plant Development*
  • Time Factors