Effects of environmental heterogeneity on the distribution of sexes within and among populations in a gynodioecious species, Geranium maculatum

Megan L. Van Etten, Shu Mei Chang

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11 Scopus citations


Populations containing both females and hermaphrodites (dimorphic) are generally found in drier sites than those with only hermaphrodites (monomorphic). The sex-differential plasticity hypothesis (SDP) suggests that this is caused by hermaphrodites reducing allocation to seeds in harsh environments, allowing female establishment. We proposed that a similar process could explain sex distribution within populations. • We compared light availability and soil moisture between sites of three monomorphic and three dimorphic populations of Geranium maculatum and between microsites occupied by females and hermaphrodites within populations. We also correlated seed production in dimorphic populations with environmental measures. • We found that dimorphic and monomorphic populations occurred in sites with similar soil moisture but within two dimorphic populations females occurred in drier microsites than hermaphrodites, as predicted by the SDP hypothesis. Contrary to the predictions, hermaphrodites' seed production was not influenced by the environment. Rather, females' seed production was correlated with environmental conditions in two populations, although the direction of the correlation differed between populations. • Our results suggest that in this species, the SDP hypothesis does not explain sex distribution among or within populations. However, microsite environments may influence the distribution of sexes within a population and potentially aid in maintaining gynodioecy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-660
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2009


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science

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