, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 34-39

Sexual dimorphism and resource allocation in male and female shrubs of Simmondsia chinensis

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Desert populations of the evergreen dioecious shrub Simmondsia chinensis exhibit sex-related leaf and canopy dimorphisms not present in populations from more mesic coastal environments. Leaves on female shrubs have characteristically larger sizes, greater specific weights, and greater water-holding capacity than male leaves in desert habitats. In coastal scrub environments no significant difference is present, with leaf characteristics of both sexes similar to those of desert male shrubs. Desert female shrub canopies are typically relatively open with little mutual branch shading. In male shrubs canopies are more densely branched with considerable mutual shading of branches. Female plants allocate a greater proportion of their vegetative resources to leaves than do male plants. Considering total biomass, male plants allocate 10–15% of their resources (biomass, calories, glucose-equivalents, nitrogen, phosphorus) to reproductive tissues. Female allocation is dependent on seed set. At 100% seed set females would allocate 30–40% of their resources to reproduction, while female reproductive investment would equal that of males at approximately 30% seed set. Sexual dimorphism and the associated physiological characteristics in Simmondsia act as an alternative to differential habitat selection by male and female plants. Female plants respond to limited water resources in desert areas by increasing their efficiency in allocating limited resources to reproductive structures.