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In weeds, disturbance has been found to affect life history traits and mediate trophic interactions. In urban landscapes, mowing is an important disturbance, and we previously showed that continuous mowing leads to enhanced fitness and defense traits in Solanum elaeagnifolium, Silverleaf Nightshade (SLN). However, most studies have been focused on foliar defenses, ignoring floral defenses. In this study we examined whether continuous mowing affected floral defenses in SLN using mowed and unmowed populations in South Texas, their native range. We found flowers of mowed SLN plants larger but lighter than unmowed plants. Additionally, flowers on plants that were mowed frequently were both heavier and larger. Mowed plants had higher spine density and consequently unmowed flowers had higher herbivore damage. Additionally, early instar Manduca sexta fed on mowed flower-based artificial diets showed no difference in mass than the control and unmowed; however, later instars caterpillars on unmowed diets gained significantly more mass than the mowed treatment and control. Mowed plants had higher spine density which may shed light on why unmowed flowers experienced higher herbivore damage. We found caterpillars fed on high mowing frequency diets were heavier than those on low mowing frequency diets. Collectively, we show that mowing compromises floral traits and enhances plant defenses against herbivores and should be accounted for in management.


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Creative Commons License

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

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Scientific Reports





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