BACKGROUNDThe economic and biological implications of plant invasion are overwhelming; however, the processes by which plants become successful invaders are not well understood. Limited genetic resources are available for most invasive and weedy species, making it difficult to study molecular and genetic aspects that may be associated with invasion.RESULTSAs an initial step towards understanding the molecular mechanisms by which plants become invasive, we have generated a normalized Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) library comprising seven invasive populations of Centaurea maculosa, an invasive aster in North America. Seventy-seven percent of the 4423 unique transcripts showed significant similarity to existing proteins in the NCBI database and could be grouped based on gene ontology assignments.CONCLUSIONThe C. maculosa EST library represents an initial step towards looking at gene-specific expression in this species, and will pave the way for creation of other resources such as microarray chips that can help provide a view of global gene expression in invasive C. maculosa and its native counterparts. To our knowledge, this is the first published set of ESTs derived from an invasive weed that will be targeted to study invasive behavior. Understanding the genetic basis of evolution for increased invasiveness in exotic plants is critical to understanding the mechanisms through which exotic invasions occur.