Floral sex allocation and reproductive success within inflorescences of Hosta ventricosa, a pseudogamous apomict

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Within inflorescences of sexually reproducing hermaphrodites, the production of ovules, fruits and seeds commonly declines from basal (early-opening) to distal (late-opening) flowers, while pollen production remains constant or only changes slightly, with the result that distal (late-opening) flowers become functionally male. However, few empirical studies have specifically examined whether or not changes in allocation to pollen production actually lead to changes in the number of seeds sired, a more direct measure of male fitness. In pseudogamous apomicts, fitness depends on the number of seeds produced; thus, a contrasting pattern of variation in the pollen-to-ovule (P/O) ratio within inflorescences might be expected.


We investigated floral sex allocation and reproductive success within racemes of Hosta ventricosa, a pseudogamous apomictic hermaphrodite possessing flowers that open acropetally. We quantified variations in pollen number, ovule number, the P/O ratio and fruit and seed production, from 2007 to 2011, among flowers within racemes of four populations of H. ventricosa in southwest China. Ecological causes for fruit and seed production were evaluated by observing patterns of pollen deposition, flower removal and supplemental pollination.

Important Findings

Pollen number, ovule number and the P/O ratio declined from basal-to-distal positions in all sampled populations (years). Fruit and seed production decreased distally in most populations (years). Low fruit and seed set of distal flowers was not due to pollen limitation because pollen deposition never declined distally and the low fruit and seed set of distal flowers remained even after supplementary pollination was provided. The flower-removal experiment indicated that inter-fruit competition for resources among flowers was common. The low P/O ratio of distal flowers in H. ventricosa might be favored because they were unable to obtain fitness by donating pollen and siring seeds on other plants. Our study may help to understand the adaptive significance of sex allocation among flowers within inflorescences of sexually reproducing hermaphrodites.

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