, Volume 86, Issue 2, pp 236–242 | Cite as

The effects of seed weight on growth and competitive ability of Rumex acetosella from two successional old-fields

  • C. Houssard
  • J. Escarré
Original Papers


The effects of seed size on growth, biomass allocation and competitive ability of Rumex acetosella plants grown either individually or in competition were studied in two populations (6 months and 15 years old respectively) sampled from a postcultivation successional gradient. For plants grown individually there were highly significant effects of seed weight on growth after 43 days, with a higher relative growth rate (RGR) observed for plants raised from heavier seeds. However at the end of the experiment, seedlings developed from lighter seeds had a RGR 2 times greater than those from heavier seeds. Final biomass of the two types was not significantly different after 73 days of growth. When plants were grown individually, there were only slight differences between populations, but when grown in monocultures of 4 plants per pot, plants from the old population had higher root and leaf biomass per pot whereas those from the young population had a higher reproductive effort per pot. This suggests that a trade-off between allocation to sexual and vegetative reproduction occurs over successional time. In mixtures of light and heavy seeds, plants from light seeds were shorter, had fewer leaves and lower biomass than plants from heavy seeds, which were also taller and produced more dry matter than plants grown from heavy seeds in monoculture. The significant effects of seed weight and population on biomass parameters persisted unit the end of the experiment. Seedlings from heavy seeds were strong competitors: those from the young population grew better in the presence of neighbors than in monoculture and those from the late successional population suppressed the more the growth of their partners. Seedlings from light seeds were subordinate competitors. These results suggest that seedlings from seeds of different sizes benefit from contrasting ecological conditions and that selection acts on reproductive output along successional gradients.

Key words

Seed size Rumex acetosella Competition Succession Relative growth rate 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Houssard
    • 1
  • J. Escarré
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Systématique et Ecologie VégétalesUA (CNRS) 121Orsay CedexFrance

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