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J Chem Ecol. 2007 Dec;33(12):2337-44. Epub 2007 Nov 21.

Concentrations of the Allelochemical (+/-)-catechin IN Centaurea maculosa soils.

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  • 1Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship, Colorado State University, 1472 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA.


The phytotoxin (+/-)-catechin has been proposed to mediate invasion and autoinhibition by the Eurasian plant Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed). The importance of (+/-)-catechin to C. maculosa ecology depends in part on whether sufficient catechin concentrations occur at appropriate times and locations within C. maculosa soil to influence neighboring plants. Previous research on catechin in C. maculosa soils has yielded conflicting results, with some studies finding high soil catechin concentrations and other, more recent studies finding little or no catechin in field soils. Here, we report the most extensive study of soil catechin concentrations to date. We examined soil catechin concentrations in 402 samples from 11 C. maculosa sites in North America sampled in consecutive months over 1 yr, excluding winter months. One site was sampled on seven dates, another was sampled twice, and the remaining nine sites were each sampled once on a range of sampling dates. Methods used were similar to those with which we previously measured high soil catechin concentrations. We detected catechin only in the site that was sampled on seven dates and only on one sampling date in that site (May 16 2006), but in all samples collected on that date. The mean soil catechin concentration on that date was 0.65 +/- 0.45 (SD) mg g(-1), comparable to previously reported high concentrations. There are a number of possible explanations for the infrequency with which we detected soil catechin in this work compared to previous studies. Differences in results could reflect spatial and temporal variation in catechin exudation or degradation, as we examined different sites in a different year from most previous studies. Also, large quantities of catechin were detected in blanks for two sampling periods in the present study, leading us to discard those data. This contamination suggests that previous reports of high catechin concentrations that did not include blanks should be viewed with caution. Our results suggest that pure catechin is only rarely present in C. maculosa bulk soils. Thus, although catechin may play a role in C. maculosa invasion, the infrequency of soil catechin that we determined in this study suggests that we cannot be as certain of its role as previous reports of high soil catechin concentrations suggested.

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