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Am Nat. 2000 Jul;156(1):72-83.

High and Dry: Drought Stress, Sex-Allocation Trade-offs, and Selection on Flower Size in the Alpine Wildflower Polemonium viscosum (Polemoniaceae).


Sex-allocation trade-offs may maintain variation in secondary sexual characteristics if such traits vary in their benefits or costs in association with different genders. In Polemonium viscosum, large flowers benefit both male and female aspects of reproduction. In this study, I explore how resource investment in flower size influences the cost of allocation to male and female function. Large flowers exact a water cost in P. viscosum under dry conditions. In an extreme drought in 1997, experimentally watered plants had higher survival and fecundity than controls. By comparing allocation patterns between plants dying from drought and survivors, I tested whether the demographic cost of large flowers increases with allocation to fecundity. Controls that died showed a positive relationship between flower size and fruit production, while survivors showed a negative relationship or trade-off. Watered plants showed no such trade-off. To test whether drought affects the relationship of corolla size to male function, I used leaf-water potential in 1998 to classify plants as stressed or unstressed. Corolla size showed positive correlations to pollen per flower regardless of drought stress. I conclude that under drought the demographic cost of producing large flowers is gender dependent, such that viability selection favors either small-flowered plants with female-biased reproduction or larger-flowered plants with male-biased reproduction.

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