The advantages of guerrilla and phalanx growth for the guerrilla Elymus lanceolatus ssp. lanceolatus and phalanx E. l. ssp. wawawaiensis were evaluated over 2 years in two taxon mixtures with a range of densities of each subspecies and under two levels of watering.
Ramet numbers and biomass of the guerrilla subspecies were higher than those of the phalanx grass in the first year but in the second year declined greatly, while the phalanx grass showed no change in biomass and an increase in ramet numbers. High neighbour densities affected the phalanx subspecies more strongly than the guerrilla subspecies in the first year, but in the second year there were few differences between subspecies. Biomass of the guerrilla grass remained greater than that of the phalanx grass but ramet numbers were similar in the second year.
For both subspecies in both years, probability of flowering decreased at higher neighbour densities, indicating adaptation for competitive ability. In the first year, biomass was more strongly reduced by densities than flowering was, but in the second year, when crowding was apparently greater, flowering was more severely affected.
Genet survival was high and similar for both subspecies.
The presumed advantage of guerrilla subspecies in exploiting open space was supported. The guerrilla grass exploited resources more quickly in the first year by faster growth and greater ramet production, but its biomass, ramet numbers and rhizome growth, and thus its advantage, were reduced in the second year.
The phalanx subspecies had slower growth, produced more ramets in later years, and delayed flowering until later years. Although less able to exploit open resources, it appeared adapted to more stressful conditions, and may be able to exploit temporal resource pulses more effectively.