J Syst Evol ›› 2014, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (3): 368-377.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12046

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Plant sexual systems correlated with morphological traits: Reflecting reproductive strategies of alpine plants

1,2,3De-Li PENG 1Xiao-Kun OU 2Bo XU 2Zhi-Qiang ZHANG 2Yang NIU 4Zhi-Min LI* 2Hang SUN*   

  1. 1(Institute of Ecology and Geobotany, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China)
    2(Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650201, China)
    3(University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China)
    4(School of Life Sciences, Yunnan Normal University, Kunming 650500, China)
  • Received:2013-04-02 Published:2014-05-09

Abstract: Plant sexual systems can be affected by various environmental factors, and thus show a range of morphological differences. The associations between plant sexual systems and morphology are unique, for example, the subnival belt of the Hengduan Mountains has harsh climatic conditions, but hosts remarkable biodiversity. However, these associations have received surprisingly little attention. We analyzed the associations in this region, and compared the pattern of sexual systems with that of other floras, and we also reviewed the breeding system of 36 alpine species. Information on plant sexual systems and these traits were mainly based on published information, herbarium collections, and field observations. The results showed that there was a high proportion of hermaphroditic species and a low proportion of dioecious and monoecious species. Hermaphroditism was strongly associated with showy floral displays, specialist entomophily, and perennial forbs. Dioecy was strongly associated with inconspicuous, pale-colored flowers, anemophily, and shrubs, whereas monoecy was strongly associated with inconspicuous, pale-colored flowers, generalist entomophily, and perennial grasses. Although no association was found between sexual systems and fruit type, plants with dry fruits (98.1%) were predominant in our study region. With respect to the plant breeding systems in the alpine region of southwest China, we predicted that pollination service might be particularly low; most of the plants lacked enough outcrossing pollinators. Our data revealed that 97.1% of the hermaphroditic species were self-compatible, and 88.2% of them showed autonomous or facilitated selfing. The plant sexual systems identified might serve to optimize the probability of pollination and thus ensure reproductive success.

Key words: alpine subnival belt, floral display, fruit types, Hengduan Mountains, pollination syndrome, sexual systems.