Age distributions of sulfur cinquefoil populations were determined on sites that were historically grazed, cultivated, and mechanically disturbed. From 12 sites, a total of 279 reproductively active plants were collected and aged by using herbchronology (counting rings in the secondary root xylem of the root crown) to (1) estimate the age structure of the populations, (2) relate plant size and flower production to plant age, and (3) examine the relation of population age structure to environmental variables and disturbance history. Results indicated that the mean age for all sampled plants was 3.5 (± 1.74 SD) yr and ranged from 1 to 10 yr. Age was not related to number of flowers, plant size (number of stems per plant or plant height), or site disturbance type but was positively correlated with site elevation (P < 0.001). The pooled age distribution from all 12 sites was right-skewed with fewer old plants than young plants. We conclude that sulfur cinquefoil plants sampled in northeast Oregon are able to colonize, establish, and reproduce at disturbed sites rapidly. We suggest that herbchronology may be a useful technique to improve understanding of invasion biology and ecology for invasive plant species that form annual rings.
Nomenclature: Sulfur cinquefoil, Potentilla recta L. PTLRC.