• Ecological character displacement;
  • niche differentiation;
  • plant–plant interactions;
  • reproductive character displacement


The evidence for character displacement as a widespread response to competition is now building. This progress is largely the result of the establishment of rigorous criteria for demonstrating character displacement in the animal literature. There are, however, relatively few well-supported examples of character displacement in plants. This review explores the potential for character displacement in plants by addressing the following questions: (1) Why aren't examples of character displacement in plants more common? (2) What are the requirements for character displacement to occur and how do plant populations meet those requirements? (3) What are the criteria for testing the pattern and process of character displacement and what methods can and have been used to address these criteria in the plant literature? (4) What are some additional approaches for studying character displacement in plants? While more research is needed, the few plant systems in which character displacement hypotheses have been rigorously tested suggest that character displacement may play a role in shaping plant communities. Plants are especially amenable to character displacement studies because of the experimental ease with which they can be used in common gardens, selection analyses, and breeding designs. A deeper investigation of character displacement in plants is critical for a more complete understanding of the ecological and evolutionary processes that permit the coexistence of plant species.