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image of Israel Journal of Plant Sciences

This study examined issues related to the ecology of andromonoecy in Gagea chlorantha (Liliaceae), a perennial geophyte that grows in desert and Mediterranean-type habitats in Israel. Andromonoecy is a plant sexual system where individuals produce both male and hermaphrodite flowers and is thought to have evolved to optimize resource allocation to male and female function. Individuals of this species produced 1–6 flowers, and flower production was significantly correlated with the size of the storage organ (bulb). Three sexual phenotypes were found to exist: those that made only male flowers, plants that made only hermaphrodite flowers, and those that produced both flower types. Two lines of evidence suggest that hermaphroditic reproduction is more costly than male reproduction: (1) hermaphroditic flowers were heavier than male flowers in terms of dry biomass; (2) bulb size was greater on single-flower plants that were hermaphrodite compared to male. In addition, bulb size was greater on multiple-flowered plants that made a hermaphrodite flower as the last flower, compared to those that made a male flower. The floral sex ratio varied extensively along a latitudinal rainfall gradient within Israel. The five Mediterranean populations were male-biased. In contrast, the production of males in the three Negev desert populations was extremely rare, and approximately 94% of the flowers were hermaphrodite. The difference in sex ratio between the two habitat types is explained in terms of environmental unpredictability.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Georgia Southern University


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