Density and the commitment of apical meristems to clonal growth and reproduction in Hieracium pilosella

GF Bishop, AJ Davy

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We examined responses to population density in the commitment of apical meristems to reproduction and clonal growth in a rosette-forming, stoloniferous herb (Hieracium pilosella). Despite close physiological coupling between the evocation of the terminal inflorescence bud and the development of one or more axillary buds into stolons, the allocation of meristems was extremely plastic. Genets at the higher sowing densities showed density-dependent mortality consistent with self-thinning along a-3/2 trajectory. The probability of inflorescence evocation and associated stolon development was negatively dependent on surviving density. The proportinal distribution of primary stolons amongst genets became strikingly more unequal (expressed as the Gini coefficient) with increasing density. Clonal growth was resolved into the number of primary stolons per stoloniferous genet and the extent of stolon branching (i.e. number of apices per primary stolon); both showed strongly negative density-dependence. Reproduction, expressed as the mean number of flowering capitula per stoloniferous genet, declined 15-fold with increasing density; although theoretically expected to be unity, greater values resulted from capitulum production by attached secondary rosettes and lower values reflected the increasing abortion rate of inflorescence buds with increasing density. Both the total number of apices produced per unit area and the corresponding number of reproductive apices were maximal at intermediate surviving densities (700–1,000 m-2). The balance between reproductive and clonal growth may be expressed as the probability of an apical meristem producing a capitulum, that also peaked sharply at intermediate density. This finding does not conform with linear models that predict a shift from vegetative growth to sexual reproduction with increasing population density.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-422
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1985

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