Invasive species rank among the top threats to biodiversity, globally. Invasive plantscan dominate invaded habitats and threaten the persistence of native biota. A research priority, therefore, is to understand the phenotypic and life history features that predispose plants to becoming invasive. We suggest progress can only be made if we consider species’ entire life histories, including lifetime schedules of reproduction, survival and growth. We must also consider life histories measured in the native and introduced/invaded range. Here we exploit the COMPADRE database of structured life history models of plants. We infer the stable and transient growth rates of population of plants that vary in invasive status (never established outside native range; introduced but not invasive; invasive) and where measured (in the native or introduced range). With full phylogenetic control, we use MCMC models to regress indices of population growth against invasive status and where measured.
We study the life histories of 2655 populations representing 516 species of plant. We find that invasive plants have credibly greater stable rates of population growth than introduced and restricted species, but find no difference in growth rates measured in the native or invaded range. However, we find that invasive plants measured in the invaded range have greater tendency to boom (amplify in response to demographic disturbance) than those measured in the native range. This “boomy” behaviour is likely related to increases in fecundity and recruitment in the invaded range. We conclude that invasive plants have identifiable demographic syndromes of rapid population growth and boomy responses to disturbance; that the invasiveness of plants can be predicted based on their life history in the native range; but that the release of recruitment constraints in the invaded range serves to exaggerate the demographic syndrome of invasiveness.