In this review, we synthesize the current knowledge of the ecology and impacts of Rhamnus cathartica L., a shrub from Europe and Asia that is a successful invader in North America. Physiological studies have uncovered traits including shade tolerance, rapid growth, high photosynthetic rates, a wide tolerance of moisture and drought, and an unusual phenology that may give R. cathartica an advantage in the environments it invades. Its high fecundity, bird-dispersed
fruit, high germination rates, seedling success in disturbed conditions, and secondary metabolite production may also contribute to its ability to rapidly increase in abundance and impact ecosystems. R. cathartica impacts ecosystems
through changes in soil N, elimination of the leaf litter layer, possible facilitation of earthworm invasions, unsubstantiated effects on native plants through allelopathy or competition, and effects on animals that may or may not be able to use it
for food or habitat.
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