Fungal endophyte infection increases tall fescue's survival, growth, and flowering in a reconstructed prairie

Jonathan D. Moore, Anna E. Carlisle, Jim A. Nelson, Rebecca L. McCulley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Grasslands in North America are increasingly threatened by land conversion and ecological degradation, prompting restoration efforts to increase native plant species diversity and improve wildlife habitat. A major challenge is the removal and management of nonnative invasive species such as tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus), which has a symbiotic association with a fungal endophyte (Epichloë coenophiala) that modifies its ecological interactions. Using transplanted clumps of the cultivar Kentucky-31, we tested the effects of endophyte infection on tall fescue's survival and performance (tiller production, flowering, and basal area) for 5 years in a central Kentucky reconstructed prairie. We predicted that endophyte infected (E+) clumps would have increased performance compared to endophyte-free (E−) clumps. Overall, E+ clumps had greater survival, tiller production, flowering tiller production, and basal area, but not reproductive effort (proportion of tillers flowering) as compared to E− clumps. However, survival and trends in tiller number and basal area over the 5-year period suggested experimental tall fescue populations were in decline in the reconstructed prairie, although the E− population declined more rapidly. Our study provides evidence that endophyte infection improved tall fescue's growth and survival in a postreconstruction plant community, at least in the early years following reconstruction, and may increase the invasive potential of this nonnative species in prairie restorations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1000-1007
Number of pages8
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Society for Ecological Restoration


  • Epichloë coenophiala
  • Festuca arundinacea
  • Kentucky-31
  • Neotyphodium coenophialum
  • Schenodorus phoenix
  • invasive species
  • prairie restoration
  • tall fescue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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