Synchronized protandry and hermaphroditism in a tropical secondary forest tree, Schefflera heptaphylla (Araliaceae)

Pei, Nancai; Luo, Zhonglai; Schlessman, Mark; Zhang, Dianxiang
September 2011
Plant Systematics & Evolution;Sep2011, Vol. 296 Issue 1/2, p29
Academic Journal
Selection favoring avoidance of stigma clogging, pollen discounting, self-fertilization, and other negative effects of self-pollination can produce intricate patterns of intra- and interfloral dichogamy in plants bearing numerous flowers. Here we report an extensive study of the relationships among dichogamy, floral sex allocation (pollen-to-ovule ratios), nectar production, floral visitors, mating system, and fruit set in natural populations of Schefflera heptaphylla, a widespread paleotropical secondary forest tree that produces thousands of flowers in a blooming season. Each tree produces 15-30 sequentially blooming, paniculate, compound inflorescences. Each compound inflorescence has up to three orders of umbellets, which also bloom sequentially. While hand-pollinations showed that S. heptaphylla was capable of self-fertilization, our observations of thousands of flowers showed that strong intra- and interfloral protandry severely restricts both autogamous and geitonogamous self-pollination. All flowers were bisexual, thus the sexual system of the populations we studied was hermaphroditism. The pollen-to-ovule (P/O) ratios were characteristic of outcrossing species, and P/O ratios of flowers in the last-maturing (third order) umbellets were significantly higher than those in earlier-maturing (first and second order) umbellets. Floral visitors were primarily flies ( Chrysomya sp. and Syrphinae sp.) and wasps ( Vespula sp. and Eumenes sp.). Flowers produced nectar during both the male (pollen presentation) and female (stigma receptivity) stages of their development, and the volume of nectar production was higher in the female stage. Nevertheless, flowers received fewer visits in the female stage than they did in the male stage, and natural fruit set was low, especially in first and third order umbellets. Fruit set from hand cross- and self-pollinations was significantly higher than natural fruit set, indicating pollen limitation of fruit set. Schefflera heptaphylla has also been reported to be andromonoecious. Both hermaphroditism and andromonoecy are consistent with theoretical predictions for variation in sex allocation among sequentially maturing flowers in protandrous species. Further studies comparing hermaphroditic and andromonoecious populations of S. heptaphylla could elucidate the selective factors affecting sex expression, nectar production, and fruit set in species with numerous flowers displaying both intra- and interfloral dichogamy.


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