We investigated the symbiotic activities of fungal endophytes isolated from spotted knapweed, Centaurea stoebe. Previously, an analysis of community similarity had demonstrated differences in the endophyte communities of C. stoebe in its native and invaded ranges. Here, we found that specific endophytes can exert positive effects on their host, whereas others exert negative effects. Endophytes produced metabolites that inhibited germination of a competitor of C. stoebe. Endophytes also repelled a specialist insect herbivore, perhaps by producing biologically active volatiles. Yet other endophytes acted as cryptic pathogens of C. stoebe, suppressing its germination, reducing its growth, increasing the abundance of a generalist insect herbivore, and delaying or suppressing its flowering. Since, as reported here, endophytes are not functionally interchangeable, previously reported community differences could be contributing to the invasiveness of C. stoebe.
Keywords: endophyte ecology; flowering; herbivory; seed germination.