The response of plant species to environmental change, including climate, is based on phenotypic plasticity. Empirical research can help in understanding how invasive plants adapt to changing conditions for successful establishment. Our goal was to assess the effect of environment of origin and ecotypic variation on phenotypic response of native and invasive Phragmites australis using morphological and ecophysiological measurements. We established a common garden study using seeds collected from Southwest, Midwest, and Great Lakes regions that crossed longitudinal and latitudinal gradients of the US. Within and end of growing season measurements were made for morphological (e.g., height, leaf size, inflorescence) and ecophysiological (e.g., photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, water use efficiency) attributes of all P. australis lineages. Native and invasive lineages differed significantly across regions in the categories of maximum height and stem diameter along with the probability of inflorescence. However, lineages were fairly similar across regions with regard to photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, transpiration and water use efficiency throughout the growing season. The general insignificance in ecophysiology among the lineages and across regions demonstrates adaption or phenotypic plasticity of P. australis. However, morphological characteristics of P. australis may not be as evolutionarily advanced in response to changing conditions, especially drought.

Author ORCID Identifier

Stephen L. Young



Document Type




File Format

.csv, .txt

Publication Date



Utah Agricultural Experiment Station


Utah State University

Award Number

Utah Agricultural Experiment Station UTA01411

Award Title

Attributes of Phragmites australis in response to climate change using a common garden study


Weekly measurements were made for various growth parameters of Phragmites australis, which included height (average and maximum), stem number (total and inside/outside the main clump), stature (rating for upright (0) to laid over (5)), stolons (number and length), and inflorescences (number). In addition, detailed morphology measurements were taken on the three most mature stems from clumps in each mesocosm and included maximum height, length to the first node above and below the middle of each stem, length and width of the first leaf above and below the middle of each stem, diameter of the top, middle, and bottom third of each stem, hairiness of leaf ligules (sparse, medium, heavy), foliage color (green, brown, red), and presence and length of inflorescences. Ecophysiological traits were measured approximately every two weeks from June to September. In each mesocosm, assimilation rate, (A, µmol m-2 s-1), stomatal conductance (Gs, mol m-2 s-1), and transpiration (E, mmol m-2 s-1) were measured on at least three plants using the LICOR 6400XT (LI-COR, Lincoln, NE, USA). Instantaneous water use efficiency was calculated using the ratio of A to Gs. The 15N and 13C were determined separately on 3 to 5 leaves per plants by combustion and isotope ratio mass spectrometry using a Eurovector E3000 elemental analyzer interfaced with an Isoprime continuous flow isotope ratio mass spectrometer (GV Instruments, Manchester, UK). Plant nitrogen content was determined analytically for each mesocosm using the Costech ECS 4010 (Costech Analytical Technologies, Inc, Valencia, CA, USA). Measured morphological traits included specific leaf area (SLA) during the season and dry above ground biomass at the end of the season. For biomass, all above ground leaves and stems (not stolons) were cut at the soil surface and put in a drying oven for five days until reaching a constant weight.

Scientfic Names

Phragmites australis

Start Date


End Date



Utah State University



Code Lists

See the Data_Dictionary.csv file.


Files are grouped in to four types: 2012 Growth, 2013 Growth, 2013 Season End, and Ecophysiology. The files are then defined by the date that the data was collected.


Plant Sciences


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



Additional Files

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