Allelopathic exudates of cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica): implications for the performance of native pine savanna plant species in the southeastern US

J Chem Ecol. 2013 Feb;39(2):312-22. doi: 10.1007/s10886-013-0241-z. Epub 2013 Jan 20.


We conducted a greenhouse study to assess the effects of cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) rhizochemicals on a suite of plants native to southeastern US pine savanna ecosystems. Our results indicated a possible allelopathic effect, although it varied by species. A ruderal grass (Andropogon arctatus) and ericaceous shrub (Lyonia ferruginea) were unaffected by irrigation with cogongrass soil "leachate" (relative to leachate from mixed native species), while a mid-successional grass (Aristida stricta Michx. var. beyrichiana) and tree (Pinus elliottii) were negatively affected. For A. stricta, we observed a 35.7 % reduction in aboveground biomass, a 21.9 % reduction in total root length, a 24.6 % reduction in specific root length and a 23.5 % reduction in total mycorrhizal root length, relative to the native leachate treatment. For P. elliottii, there was a 19.5 % reduction in percent mycorrhizal colonization and a 20.1 % reduction in total mycorrhizal root length. Comparisons with a DI water control in year two support the possibility that the treatment effects were due to the negative effects of cogongrass leachate, rather than a facilitative effect from the mixed natives. Chemical analyses identified 12 putative allelopathic compounds (mostly phenolics) in cogongrass leachate. The concentrations of most compounds were significantly lower, if they were present at all, in the native leachate. One compound was an alkaloid with a speculated structure of hexadecahydro-1-azachrysen-8-yl ester (C23H33NO4). This compound was not found in the native leachate. We hypothesize that the observed treatment effects may be attributable, at least partially, to these qualitative and quantitative differences in leachate chemistry.

MeSH terms

  • Biomass
  • Mycorrhizae / growth & development
  • Pheromones / chemistry
  • Pheromones / isolation & purification
  • Pheromones / metabolism*
  • Pinus / growth & development*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Poaceae / chemistry*
  • Poaceae / growth & development*
  • Rhizosphere
  • Trees / growth & development*


  • Pheromones
  • Plant Extracts