Pistillate flowers experience more pollen limitation and less geitonogamy than perfect flowers in a gynomonoecious herb



  • Gynomonoecy, a sexual system in which plants have both pistillate (female) flowers and perfect (hermaphroditic) flowers, occurs in at least 15 families, but the differential reproductive strategies of the two flower morphs within one individual remain unclear.
  • Racemes of Eremurus anisopterus (Xanthorrhoeaceae) have basal pistillate and distal perfect flowers. To compare sex allocation and reproductive success between the two flower morphs, we measured floral traits, pollinator preferences, and pollen movement in the field.
  • Pollen limitation was more severe in pistillate flowers; bee pollinators preferred to visit perfect flowers, which were also capable of partial self-fertilization. Pollen-staining experiments indicated that perfect flowers received a higher proportion of intra-plant pollen (geitonogamy) than pistillate flowers. Plants with greater numbers of pistillate flowers received more outcross pollen. The differential reproductive success conformed with differential floral sex allocation, in which pistillate flowers produce fewer but larger ovules, resulting in outcrossed seeds.
  • Our flower manipulations in these nectarless gynomonoecious plants demonstrated that perfect flowers promote seed quantity in that they are more attractive to pollinators, while pistillate flowers compensate for the loss of male function through better seed quality. These results are consistent with the outcrossing-benefit hypothesis for gynomonoecy.