, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 204-216

Rainfall and flowering synchrony in a tropical shrub: Variable selection on the flowering time ofErythroxylum havanense

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We tested the adaptive significance of flowering synchrony by means of a quantitative analysis of selection and by flowering induction experiments with the deciduous shrubErythroxylum havanense. Temporal schedules of flower and fruit production were determined for a local population (in three sites) in a Mexican seasonal forest for 2 years (1987–1988). The consequences of natural variation in flowering time (flowering initiation day) on maternal reproductive success (fecundity) were evaluated. We observed high levels of inter- and intraindividual flowering synchrony in 1987, but not in 1988 and this contrast was related to differences in rainfall patterns between the two years. A significant proportion (15.4%) of the phenotypic variation in flowering initiation day was accounted for by environmental variance. The expression of phenotypic variance of flowering time and, consequently, the opportunity for selection to act, are controlled by annual variation in rainfall. Despite the between-year difference in flowering synchrony, we detected a relatively intense directional selection on flowering initiation day in both years, but selection coefficients were of opposite sign (standardized directional gradients were −0.326 and 0.333 for 1987 and 1988, respectively). For both years there was a significant relationship between individual relative fitness and the number of neighbouring flowering plants in a given day, suggesting positive frequency-dependent selection.