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Ecology. 2010 Sep;91(9):2583-93.

Mycorrhizal benefit differs among the sexes in a gynodioecious species.

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Department of Biology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, Oulu FIN-90014 Finland.


Both plant sex and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis influence resource acquisition and allocation in plants, but the interaction between these two components is not well established. As the different plant sexes differ in their resource needs and allocation patterns, it is logical to presume that they might differ in their relationship with AM as well. We investigate whether the association with AM symbiosis is different according to the host plant sex in the gynodioecious Geranium sylvaticum, of which, besides female and hermaphrodite plants, intermediate plants are also recognized. Specifically, we examine the effects of two different AM fungi in plant mass allocation and phosphorus acquisition using a factorial greenhouse/common garden experiment. Cloned G. sylvaticum material was grown in symbiosis with AM fungi or in non-mycorrhizal condition. We evaluated both the symbiotic plant benefit in terms of plant mass and plant P content and the fungal benefit in terms of AM colonization intensity in the plant roots and spore production. Our results suggest that G. sylvaticum plants benefit from the symbiosis with both AM fungal species tested but that the benefits gained from the symbiosis depend on the sex of the plant and on the trait investigated. Hermaphrodites suffered most from the lack of AM symbiosis as the proportion of flowering plants was dramatically reduced by the absence of AM fungi. However, females and intermediates benefited from the symbiosis relatively more than hermaphrodites in terms of higher P acquisition. The two AM fungal species differed in the amount of resources accumulated, and the fungal benefit was also dependent on the sex of the host plant. This study provides the first evidence of sex-specific benefits from mycorrhizal symbiosis in a gynodioecious plant species.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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