Male flowers are better fathers than hermaphroditic flowers in andromonoecious Passiflora incarnata


Author for correspondence:
Can Dai
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  • The diversity of plant breeding systems provides the opportunity to study a range of potential reproductive adaptations. Many mechanisms remain poorly understood, among them the evolution and maintenance of male flowers in andromonoecy. Here, we studied the role of morphologically male flowers (‘male morph’) in andromonoecious Passiflora incarnata.
  • We measured morphological differences between hermaphroditic and male morph flowers in P. incarnata and explored the fruiting and siring ability of both flower types.
  • Male morph flowers in P. incarnata were of similar size to hermaphroditic flowers, and there was little evidence of different resource allocation to the two flower types. Male morph flowers were less capable of producing fruit, even under ample pollen and resource conditions. By contrast, male morph flowers were more successful in siring seeds. On average, male morph flowers sired twice as many seeds as hermaphroditic flowers. This difference in male fitness was driven by higher pollen export from male morph flowers as a result of greater pollen production and less self-pollen deposition.
  • The production of male morph flowers in P. incarnata appears to be a flexible adaptive mechanism to enhance male fitness, which might be especially beneficial when plants face temporary resource shortages for nurturing additional fruits.