Temporal and intraclonal variation of flowering and pseudovivipary inPoa bulbosa

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• Background and Aims

Versatility in the reproductive development of pseudoviviparous grasses in response to growth conditions is an intriguing reproduction strategy. To better understand this strategy, this study examined variation in flowering and pseudovivipary among populations, co-occurring clones within populations, and among tillers in individual clones of Poa bulbosa, a summer-dormant geophytic grass that reproduces sexually by seed, and asexually by basal tiller bulbs and bulbils formed in proliferated panicles.

• Methods

Clones were collected from 17 populations across a rainfall gradient. Patterns of reproduction were monitored for 11 years in a common garden experiment and related to interannual differences in climatic conditions. Intraclonal variation in flowering and pseudovivipary was studied in a phytotron, under daylengths marginal for flowering induction.

• Key Results

Clones showed large temporal variability in their reproductive behaviour. They flowered in some years but not in others, produced normal or proliferated panicles in different years, or became dormant without flowering. Proliferating clones did not show a distinct time sequence of flowering and proliferation across years. Populations differed in incidence of flowering and proliferation. The proportion of flowering clones increased with decreasing rainfall at the site of population origin, but no consistent relationship was found between flowering and precipitation in the common garden experiment across years. In contrast, flowering decreased at higher temperatures during early growth stages after bulb sprouting. Pulses of soil fertilization greatly increased the proportion of flowering clones and panicle production. High intraclonal tiller heterogeneity was observed, as shown by the divergent developmental fates of daughter plants arising from bulbs from the same parent clone and grown under similar conditions. Panicle proliferation was enhanced by non-inductive 8 h short days, while marginally inductive 12 h days promoted normal panicles.

• Conclusions

Interannual variation in flowering and proliferation in P. bulbosa clones was attributed to differences in the onset of the rainy season, resulting in different daylength and temperature conditions during the early stages of growth, during which induction of flowering and dormancy occurs.

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