Host use of a hemiparasitic plant: no trade-offs in performance on different hosts


Riitta Ahonen, Department of Biology, University of Oulu, PO Box 3000, FIN-90014 Oulu, Finland.
Tel.: +358 8 553 1514; fax: +358 8 553 1500;


To examine putative specialization of a hemiparasitic plant to the most beneficial host species, we studied genetic variation in performance and trade-offs between performance on different host species in the generalist hemiparasite, Rhinanthus serotinus. We grew 25 maternal half-sib families of the parasite on Agrostis capillaris and Trifolium pratense and without a host in a greenhouse. Biomass and number of flowers of the parasite were the highest when grown on T. pratense. There were significant interactions between host species and R. serotinus seed-family indicating that the differences in performance on the two hosts and without a host varied among the families. However, we found no significant negative correlations between performance of R. serotinus on the host species or between performance on the two hosts and autotrophic performance. Thus, the genetic factors studied here are not likely to affect the evolution of specialization of R. serotinus to the most beneficial host.