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Gynomonoecy is the sexual system in which female and bisexual flowers occur on the same plant. This system has received little attention despite the considerable work on other plant sexual systems in the past few decades. Our study examines one hypothesized advantage of having two flower types on a plant, namely that this arrangement permits flexibility in allocation of resources to male and female reproductive functions. We examined 16 species of Aster (Asteraceae), a genus of gynomonoecious, perennial herbs. Plants in this genus produce heads consisting of a whorl of female flowers around a cluster of bisexual flowers. Among field-grown plants we found no evidence that plant size, date, position of heads, rainfall, or shade influenced the proportion of female flowers. A series of greenhouse experiments likewise revealed no large or consistent effects of light, nutrients, or position of heads on the proportion of ray flowers. While floral ratios proved very stable in the face of environmental and physiological variables, they exhibited significant variation among plants and among sibships in most species. We conclude that the presence of two flower types in gynomonoecious asters is not advantageous in permitting flexibility in allocation of resources to male and female functions. We believe that the advantage of the female flowers in aster heads lies either in reducing pollen - pistil interference or in attracting pollinators.



Published Article/Book Citation

Bertin, R.I. and Kerwin, M.A. (1998), Floral sex ratios and gynomonoecy in Aster (Asteraceae). Am. J. Bot., 85: 235-244.