Caffeic acid-induced changes in plant-water relationships and photosynthesis in leafy spurge Euphorbia esula


Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), a native perennial weed introduced from Eurasia around the turn of the century, disrupts natural and agroecosystems across much of the Northern Great Plains. While leafy spurge displaces many native plant species, it has been demonstrated that Small everlasting (Antennaria microphylla), a native perennial, is allelopathic to leafy spurge. Caffeic acid (CA), one of three compounds isolated from small everlasting, inhibits leafy spurge seed germination, root elongation, and callus culture growth. This study investigated the mechanism of this interference at the whole-plant level. Results indicate that inhibition of growth in leafy spurge after exposure to CA is primarily due to a disruption of plant-water relations. Leafy spurge cuttings were propagated in 0.5 strength Hoagland's nutrient solution for 30 days. For treatments, six plants were transferred into nutrient medium amended with either 0.1 or 0.25 mM CA for a period of 30 days. To determine the effect of pH, two additional groups of six plants were grown in nutrient medium adjusted with HCl corresponding to pH levels of plants treated with CA (pH 5.5-5.8 for 0.1 mM CA and pH 4.5-4.8 for 0.25 mM CA). By day 12 of the treatment period, plants treated with both levels of CA had significantly higher leaf diffusive resistances than control plants. Plants grown at the corresponding pH levels experienced higher diffusive resistances later in the treatment period (day 21). Transpiration was similarly affected with treated plants showing relatively higher transpiration rates compared to controls. Chlorophyll fluorescence was significantly lower than controls in all treated plants by end of the treatment period. The stable carbon isotope ratio (13C:12C) in these plants was higher than controls. These data show that a disruption of plant water relations is the primary mechanism of plant growth inhibition.



Document Type

Conference Proceeding




13 C carbon isotopes, Allelopathy, Antennaria microphylla, Caffeic acid, Chlorophyll fluorescence, Euphorbia esula, Leafy spurge, Photosynthesis, Plant water balance, Small everlasting

Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Chemical Ecology