Did you ever wonder how Phragmites gets that amber waves style of monocultural sheen? Turns out it's burning its competitors right out of the picture. Newswise reports on new research from the Bais Lab at the University of Delaware, showing that Phragmites reed (Phragmites australis) exudes an acid from its roots that dissolves the roots of its neighbors.
The ability of plants to release chemicals that impact their competitors is known as allelopathy. Phragmites does it with gallic acid, an allelochemical that degrades the tubulin that maintains root structures, causing exposed roots to simply collapse.
To read more about this research, see the original article in the Journal of Chemical Ecology (abstract only unless you've got a subscription), or check out this press release from the University of Delaware that includes some cool images of degrading roots. Tip of the virtual hat to budak for pointing to the article.