Parasitic plants can often seriously harm host plants and, thus, alter competitive dominance between hosts and neighbouring species. However, whether and how parasitic plants differently affect the competitive abilities of invasive and the native plants have not been tested. In this study, we used Cuscuta grovonii as the parasitic plants and three invasive plants and three native plants as host plants. Host plants grown alone or in competition with Coix lacryma-jobi were either parasitized with Cuscuta grovonii or not parasitized. Parasitism caused similar damage to invasive and native plants when grown with Cuscuta grovonii alone but caused less damage to invasive species than native species when grown in competition. Parasitism increased the competitive ability of invasive plants but did not affect the competitive ability of native plants. In the absence of parasitism, the competitive ability of host plants was significantly negatively correlated with the competitive ability of Coix lacryma-jobi, but under parasitism, there was no significant relationship of the competitive ability between host and competitor plants. Our results indicated that parasitic plants can increase the competitive tolerance of invasive plants, but have no effect on native plants. Thus, parasitism may play an important role in the process of plant invasion.
Life (Basel, Switzerland) 12: 1800, 2022.