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Self-compatibility and floral biology in subdioecious Wurmbea dioica (Colchicaceae)




Vaughton, Glenda
Ramsey, Mark

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CSIRO Publishing


Dioecy has long been interpreted as a mechanism to avoid self-fertilisation and the negative effects of inbreeding depression. We determined relative self-compatibility and temporal overlap of male and female functions for hermaphrodites in subdioecious Wurmbea dioica to assess the role of selfing in the maintenance of gender dimorphism. Plants were self-compatible but did not self-pollinate autonomously. Self- and open-pollinated hermaphrodites had high seed abortion and low seed set, whereas crossed hermaphrodites and crossed and open females had low seed abortion and high seed set. For selfed hermaphrodites, abortion occurred over a range of developmental stages and was negatively related to seed set. Inbreeding depression for seed set varied extensively among plants, averaging 0.56. Despite high inbreeding depression, substantial selfing occurred in open-pollinated hermaphrodites (S = 0.76), as estimated by a non-genetic method. Flowers were protogynous, although temporal separation of male and females functions was limited because anthers began to dehisce shortly after flowers opened. Anther dehiscence was staggered over 4 days and floral longevity, pollen longevity and stigma receptivity were prolonged, thus providing considerable opportunities for pollinator-mediated self-pollination. Our findings indicate that high levels of selfing and subsequent abortion of selfed embryos due to early acting inbreeding depression are important factors maintaining gender dimorphism in W. dioica.



Keywords: autogamy; dioecy; inbreeding depression; sexual dimorphism; Colchicaceae; Spermatophyta; Wurmbea dioica



Australian Journal of Botany


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