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Arnold Arboretum

Stacey Leicht Young

Putnam Fellow

1300 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131
Fax: 617.384.6596


PhD University of Connecticut
BS University of Notre Dame

Research Interests

In the course of my research, I have focused on two main areas: the ecology of invasive plant species and the ecology of temperate liana (woody vine) species. My graduate work with Dr. John Silander focused on the ecology of the invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) and its native counterpart, American bittersweet (C. scandens). I selected these two species because the oriental bittersweet is one of the worst invaders in the Eastern US, while American bittersweet is on the decline in New England and many other regions. I found that oriental bittersweet has superior competitive abilities compared to our native species, and that lianas can actually show a positive response to competition unlike most other plant growth types. I continued my research on invasive species and oriental bittersweet for six years at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore with the US Geological Survey. There my colleague Dr. Noel Pavlovic and I worked on several projects relating to bittersweet including the morphological differences between species as well as the effects of prescribed fire on its reproduction, growth, and distribution.

Oriental and American bittersweet have proved to be an ideal model system for comparing both native and invasive congeners, as well as comparing Asian and North American liana species. It was my work with the bittersweet species which led to my broader interest in the ecology of temperate lianas. Temperate lianas are understudied because of their lower diversity in these regions compared with tropical zones. However, there is much greater diversity of lianas in temperate East Asia than in North America. Since the vast majority of lianas that exhibit invasive qualities on our continent hail from East Asia, they may be exploiting an empty niche in North America due to low diversity of species. As a Putnam Fellow at the Arnold Arboretum, I am examining biological, morphological, and ecological traits of both North American and Asian lianas. The vast collection at the Arnold Arboretum, especially in the Leventritt Shrub and Vine Garden, provides an ideal venue for comparing species to determine if there are general trends that characterize the traits of northern temperate lianas.


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