Genetic Predisposition to Invasiveness in Ornamental Impatiens Species

EPA Grant Number: FP916338
Title: Genetic Predisposition to Invasiveness in Ornamental Impatiens Species
Investigators: von Wettberg, Eric J.
Institution: Brown University
EPA Project Officer: Graham, Karen
Project Period: January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006
Project Amount: $105,428
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Terrestrial Ecology and Ecosystems , Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


Invasive species pose a threat to approximately 50 percent of rare species in New England and inflict at least 137 billion dollars a year of losses and control costs in the United States alone. Escaped ornamental plants are among the most pernicious invasive plants because of the ecological damage they cause when they escape into natural areas and the difficulties involved in controlling them. Because ornamentals are economically valuable, they can only be regulated with care for their positive economic value. Horticulturalists need information from scientists on the invasive potential of ornamentals so that noninvasive alternatives can be found. The objective of this research project is to study the processes by which some species of Impatiens, such as Impatiens glandulifera, an ornamental that is beginning to invade New England and the Pacific Northwest, escape from garden cultivation into forest understory and open stream bank habitats.


I. glandulifera is a serious pest in Europe, and controlling it now has the potential to halt a serious invasion before it becomes too costly to control. Other species of Impatiens, such as garden balsam, I. balsamina, and New Guinean Impatiens, I. hawkeri, are only rarely invasive. I will determine if genotypes of Impatiens species differ in their ability to survive under different amounts of canopy shade, and if these differences correspond to different levels of invasiveness in natural areas. My experiments will determine the spatial scale on which eradication efforts should be performed when Impatiens escape into natural areas and will provide the horticultural industry with information about the invasive potential of genotypes of Impatiens species.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, invasive species, ornamental plants, Impatiens glandulifera, environmental impacts, garden cultivation,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Environmental Monitoring, Species, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecological Indicators, ecological condition, gene-environment interaction, ecological speciation, endangered plant species, genetic consequences, genetic vulnerability, ecological integrity, exotic species

Relevant Websites:

2004 STAR Graduate Fellowship Conference Poster (PDF, 1p., 124KB, about PDF)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2004
  • 2005
  • Final