Plant invasive alien species (IAS) are a serious threat to biodiversity. Several studies have compared the functional features of IAS and native species to identify the functional traits, or set of traits, favouring the process of invasion. However, most of these studies analysed traits only related to carbon and nutrients, and the inclusion of traits related to water use and acquisition might be useful to describe the functions underlying plant invasion. Here we present an analysis of cost-related, hydraulic and leaf vein traits measured on a large assemblage of woody and herbaceous native and invasive species (93 species in total, 78 natives and 15 IAS), that co-occur in site types in the Mediterranean area with different water availability (i.e. xeric, mesic and hydric sites). IAS shared lower leaf construction costs and drought resistance, but potential higher efficiency in water transport (i.e. higher values of vein length per unit area/mass) than native species. Moreover, IAS and native species separated along the trade-offs drawn by the measured traits, suggesting that hydraulic and vein traits could set an important axis of variation between IAS and native species. At last, IAS tended to occupy the fast-growth region of the functional space, independently of growth form and site type. Hydraulic and vein traits provide stronger mechanistic linkages between construction costs and photosynthetic and growth rates, thus possibly playing a central role in determining the invasive potential of IAS. IAS could reduce costs associated with leaf construction and resistance to drought stress having, at the same time, high efficiency of water transport and photosynthetic rates by developing a denser venation network, translating to higher growth rates than native and more conservative species.

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