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Keywords:

  • Adaptation;
  • Arrhenatherum elatius ;
  • bulbils;
  • competition;
  • geophyte;
  • phenotypic plasticity;
  • polyploidy;
  • seeds

Abstract

Experimental studies that explore the possible causes of ploidy distributions and niche differentiation are rare. Increased competitive ability may be advantageous for survival in dense vegetation and may strongly affect local and regional abundances of cytotypes and potentially contribute to invasion success. We compared survival, growth and reproduction of plants originating from bulbils of three cytotypes (2n = 4x, 5x, 6x) of Allium oleraceum growing with and without a competitor (Arrhenatherum elatius). There was a strong negative effect of competition but no effect of ploidy or ploidy × competition on survivorship, height and total dry mass of A. oleraceum, i.e. no support for different competitive abilities of the ploidy levels. However, slightly different responses of populations to competition treatments within all cytotypes suggest differentiation within cytotypes. Under competition, plant survivorship was low, surviving plants were small, had low dry mass and produced neither sexual nor asexual propagules. Without competition, plant survivorship was high, and cytotypes differed in three traits after 2 year's growth: dry mass of flowers, number of flowers and ratio of the dry mass of sexual to asexual propagules all decreased with increasing ploidy level. We additionally tested tetra- and pentaploids as to whether plants originating from different types of propagule (bulbils, seeds) differ in survivorship, growth and reproduction when growing with and without a competitor. Plants originating from bulbils had higher survivorship, were more robust, flowered earlier and produced more propagules when compared to plants originating from seeds and grown without competition. Under competition, differences in performance between plants originating from seeds and bulbils mostly disappeared, with higher survivorship only for plants originating from bulbils.