, Volume 101, Issue 3, pp 343–352

The genetics and ecology of seed size variation in a biennial plant, Hydrophyllum appendiculatum (Hydrophyllaceae)

  • Lorne M. Wolfe
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/BF00328821

Cite this article as:
Wolfe, L.M. Oecologia (1995) 101: 343. doi:10.1007/BF00328821


The goal of this study was to elucidate the sources of seed size variation in Hydrophyllum appendiculatum, an outcrossing, biennial plant. The genetic basis of seed size variation was examined with a diallel breeding design. The analysis did not reveal any evidence for additive genetic variance, suggesting that seed size could not evolve in response to natural selection. A series of greenhouse experiments was conducted to determine the sensitivity of seed weight to a number of ecological variables. Seed weight was affected by inbreeding depression: seeds produced by self-pollinations were significantly lighter that outcrossed seeds. Maternal plants did not differentially provision seeds that were the result of crosses between subpopulations (separated by 300 m) or between populations (separated by 1.7 km). Mean seed size was independent of the number of outcrossed pollen donors (one vs. many) that sired seeds on an inflorescence; however, the variance was greater on inflorescences pollinated by multiple donors. Direct manipulations of the abiotic environment showed that seed size was greater on plants growing under full sunlight compared to shaded plants. Seed size was unaffected by soil type, fertilizer addition, or defoliation. Finally, I determined the effect of varying pollination intensity at the level of a single inflorescence, and at the whole plant level. Seed weight was greatest on plants that had only 1 and 5 inflorescences pollinated, and least on those that had 10 and 20 pollinated. At the inflorescence level, seed weights were greatest on those where all flowers were pollinated, compared to inflorescences where only half of the flowers were pollinated. Perhaps the greatest contributor to variance in seed size in this species was the temporal decline within plants through the flowering season. These results indicate that maternal plants are not capable of producing uniform seed crops. Rather, the final distribution of seed size produced by plants within a population will necessarily vary and be the result of pollination effects, heterogeneity in the abiotic environment, and developmental constraints.

Key words

Hydrophyllum appendiculatumSeed sizeFlower sizeMaternal effectsPollen donor effects

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lorne M. Wolfe
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyGeorgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA