Research Reports

Production and Wind Dispersal of Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense L.) Achenes

Principal Investigator:

R L Becker, M J Haar, B D Kinkaid, L D Klossner, F Forcella

September 2008

Report no. MnDOT 2008-39

Projects: Canada Thistle Seed Movement

Topics: Environment

Quantity, quality and dispersal distance of wind-blown achenes and pappi were determined during the peak time of dispersal over twelve site-years in Minnesota during 2006 and 2007. Approximately twice as many pappi than achenes were trapped. Wind blown pappi tend to travel near the ground. Most achenes fell near the parent plants and their population density declined exponentially with increasing distance. Over 80% of pappi collected did not have an achene attached. Concomitantly, seed production in Canada thistle was monitored for 8 site-years in Minnesota. Averaged across years and locations, female Canada thistle shoots that flowered produced an average of 38% empty, 17% shrunken, and 44% normal achenes. Male shoots produce about half the number of seedheads compared to female shoots. A low level of hermaphroditic expression was observed in male shoots. Though seed production by female Canada thistle is extremely variable, when sufficient pollen is available, Canada thistle clearly has the potential to generate significant contributions to seedbanks to maintain invasive stands. However, dispersal by wind is for the most part, local. Long distance dispersal of significant numbers of healthy achenes would be a rare event.

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