Selection on the timing of seedling emergence was investigated in an experimental population of Lychnis flos-cuculi, a perennial hay-meadow species. Seeds obtained from a full diallel cross of 8 genotypes from a field population were sown along an environment gradient that included the parental site.
Significant directional selection for early emergence was found and the intensity of selection varied among sites. Emergence time varied significantly among progeny families of different maternal and paternal genotypes. These differences could be attributed to parental effects whereas narrow-sense heritabilities were close to zero. Survivorship until autumn differed among progeny of paternal families. Survivorship of maternal progeny varied among sites. Whereas differences in survival and plant size among individuals from different emergence cohorts persisted over the winter, the significance of these differences among progeny from different parental genotypes disappeared.
It is suggested that a response to selection on emergence time might be low since (1) the narrow sense heritability was low, (2) parental genotypes differed in their effect on offspring emergence time when used as female parent or as pollen donor and (3) there was a family x site interaction for survival. Families with relatively early emerging seedlings also had a significantly higher seed weight, emergence percentage, and plant weight although the strength of these among-family correlations varied among sites. It is therefore not likely that simultaneous selection on emergence time and either of these traits would retard a response to selection on emergence time.