Seasonal change of flower sex ratio and pollinator dynamics in three reproductive ecotypes of protandrous plant

Tsubasa Toji, Natsumi Ishimoto, Takao Itino

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Cimicifuga simplex has three genetically and ecologically distinct pollination morphs with different flowering phenology, flower sex expressions, and selfing rates. A previous study showed that strong protandry in hermaphroditic flowers of C. simplex causes there to be seasonal minority sexes; for example, unisexual female ramets are advantageous in the first half of the flowering season and bloom then (minority sex hypothesis). That study, however, did not distinguish among the three pollination morphs of C. simplex. We investigated seasonal sex ratio changes and pollinator environments of the three morphs to verify and expand the minority sex hypothesis. We investigated flowering phenology, pollinator quantity and quality, seasonal population sex ratio dynamics, and stamen/ovule ratios in hermaphroditic flowers. We also examined the seasonal female reproductive success of hermaphroditic flowers, and the effect of male flower excision on fruit set by morph II hermaphroditic flowers. Morph I (mainly hermaphroditic and female ramets) had high pollinator quality and quantity. Fruit set of hermaphroditic ramets was high throughout the flowering season. Morph II (hermaphroditic and andromonoecious ramets) had low pollinator quality, and few pollinators visited near the beginning and end of the season. Removal of male flowers led to a pollen limitation. Morph III (hermaphroditic ramets and a high selfing rate) had very low pollinator abundance throughout the flowering season, and male and female phases largely overlapped. The scarcity of male flowers in morph I is likely a result of the high pollinator quantity and quality. The high fruit set suggests that no pollen limitation existed. The low pollinator quality and quantity of the morph II population caused it to suffer from pollen limitation and may explain the absence of unisexual female ramets in this morph. The high selfing rate of morph III may be due to the extremely low pollinator abundance. Theoretical studies have indicated that the optimal investment allocation to male and female functions depends on whether a pollen limitation exists. In C. simplex, the observed relationships between pollinator environment and reproductive systems are consistent with these theoretical models.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere03251
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • andromonoecy
  • dichogamy
  • gynodioecy
  • pollinator dynamics
  • pollinator quality
  • pollinator quantity
  • reproductive ecology
  • selfing
  • sex ratio


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