Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Sexual and vegetative reproduction in the aboveground part of a dioecious clonal plant, Dioscorea japonica (Dioscoreaceae)

  • 238 Accesses

  • 14 Citations


In dioecious clonal plants, the reproductive effort required to set seeds will be responsible for the larger investment in sexual reproduction by females. If there will be a trade-off in resource allocation between sexual and clonal reproduction, this differential sexual reproduction will lead to sexual differentiation in the relative amount of clonal reproduction. To test this prediction, we studied differences between the sexes in their phenologies and investments in sexual and vegetative reproduction (clonal reproduction by means of bulbils) with respect to ramet size in a dioecious clonal plant, Dioscorea japonica Thunb. The period of bulbil production overlapped the period during which infructescences developed. Females flowered later, produced heavier inflorescences, and fewer flowers per inflorescence than did males. Regression analysis using the size of the individual plants demonstrated that large females made smaller investments in inflorescences and larger investments in sexual reproduction than did large males. In contrast, females invested fewer resources in vegetative reproduction than did males. However, the total investments in sexual and vegetative reproduction did not differ between the sexes. These results supported our hypothesis on the sexual differentiation in sexual and clonal reproduction.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3a–d
Fig. 4


  1. Ågren J (1988) Sexual differences in biomass and nutrient allocation in the dioecious Rubus chamaemorus. Ecology 69:962–973

  2. Akoroda MO, Wilson J, Chheda HR (1984) The association of sexuality with plants traits and tuber yield in white yam. Euphytica 33:435–442

  3. Allen GA, Antos JA (1988) Relative reproductive effort in males and females of the dioecious shrub Oemleria cerasiformis. Oecologia 76:111–118

  4. Carlsson BA, Jónsdóttir BM, Svensson BM, llaghan TV (1990) Aspects of clonality in the arctic: a comparison between Lycopodium antoninum and Carex bigelowii. In: van Groenendael J, de Kroon H (eds) Clonal growth in plants. SPB, The Hague, pp 131–151

  5. Cook RE (1979) Asexual reproduction: a further consideration. Am Nat 113:769–772

  6. Delph LF (1999) Sexual dimorphism in life history. In: Geber MA, Dawson TE, Delph LF (eds) Gender and sexual dimorphism in flowering plants. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 149–173

  7. Delph LF, Lu Y, Jane LD (1993) Patterns of resource allocation in a dioecious Carex (Cyperaceae). Am J Bot 80:379–387

  8. Eckert CG (1999) Clonal plant research: proliferation, integration, but not much evolution. Am J Bot 86:1649–1654

  9. Eriksson O, Jerling L (1990) Hierarchical selection and risk spreading in clonal plants. In: van Groenendael J, de Kroon H (eds) Clonal growth in plants: regulation and function. SPB, The Hague, pp 79–94

  10. Gross KL, Soule JD (1981) Differences in biomass allocation to reproductive and vegetative structures of male and female plants of a dioecious, perennial herb, Silene alba (Miller) Krause. Am J Bot 68:801–807

  11. Harper JL (1985) Modules, branches, and the capture of resources, In: Jackson JBC, Buss LW, Cook RE (eds) Population biology and evolution of clonal organisms. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., pp 1–33

  12. Houssard C, Thompson JD, Escarre J (1994) Do sex-related differences in response to environmental variation influence the sex-ratio in the dioecious Rumex acetosella? Oikos 70: 80–90

  13. Janzen DH (1977) What are dandelions and aphids? Am Nat 111:2960–2967

  14. Kyoto University Forests (2001) Contour available from the Kamigamo Experimental Forest of Kyoto University Forest, Kyoto (in Japanese)

  15. Lloyd DG, Webb CJ (1977) Secondary sex characters in plants. Bot Rev 43:177–216

  16. Marshall C (1990) Source-sink relations of interconnected ramets clonal growth in plants. SPB, The Hague

  17. McGovern TM (2002) Sex ratio bias and clonal reproduction in the brittle star Ophiactis savignyi. Evolution 56:511–517

  18. Mogie M, Hutchings MJ (1990) Phylogeny, ontogeny and clonal growth in vascular plants. In: van Groenendael J, de Kroon H (eds) Clonal growth in plants. SPB, The Hague, pp 3–22

  19. Nakajima G (1942) Cytological studies in some flowering dioecious plants, with special reference to the sex chromosomes. Cytologia 12:262–270

  20. Natsume S, Watanabe M (2001) Genetic properties of Dioscorea japonica (Dioscoreaceae) growing in the Hiyama district of southwest Hokkaido (in Japanese). Bull Hokkaido Univ For 58:1–6

  21. Ohwi J, Kitagawa M (1983) New flora of Japan revised, Tokyo: Shibundo (in Japanese)

  22. Popp JW, Reinartz JA (1988) Sexual dimorphism in biomass allocation and clonal growth of Xanthoxylum americanum. Am J Bot 75:1732–1741

  23. Putwain PD, Harper JL (1972) Studies in the dynamics of plant populations. J Ecol 60:113–129

  24. Queller DC (1994) Male-female conflict and parent-offspring conflict. Am Nat 144:84–99

  25. Silvertown J, Charlesworth D (2001) Introduction to plant population biology. Blackwell, Oxford

  26. Slade AJ, Hutching MJ (1987a) Clonal integration and plasticity in foraging behaviour in Glechoma hederacea. J Ecol 75:1023–1036

  27. Slade AJ, Hutching MJ (1987b) The effects of nutrient availability on foraging in the clonal herb Glechoma hederacea. J Ecol 75:95–112

  28. Snow AA (1994) Postpollination selection and male fitness in plants. Am Nat 144:69–83

  29. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1981) Biometry : the principles and practice of statistics in biological research. Freeman, New York

  30. Thompson FL, Eckert CG (2004) Trade-offs between sexual and clonal reproduction in an aquatic plant: experimental manipulations vs. phenotypic correlations. J Evol Biol 17:581–592

  31. Tuomi J, Vuorisalo T (1989) What are the units of selection in modular organisms? Oikos 54:227–233

  32. Wallace CS, Rundel PW (1979) Sexual dimorphism and resource allocation in male and female shrubs of Simmondsia chinensis. Oecologia 44:34–39

  33. Willson MF (1979) Sexual selection in plants. Am Nat 113:777–780

  34. Willson MF (1994) Sexual selection in plants: perspective and overview. Am Nat 144:13–39

Download references


The authors thank Atushi Ushimaru, the staff of the Forest Biology Laboratory of Kyoto University, and the Kamigamo Forest Station of Kyoto University for their support of our study.

Author information

Correspondence to Inoue Mizuki.

About this article

Cite this article

Mizuki, I., Ishida, K. & Kikuzawa, K. Sexual and vegetative reproduction in the aboveground part of a dioecious clonal plant, Dioscorea japonica (Dioscoreaceae). Ecol Res 20, 387–393 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-005-0036-y

Download citation


  • Bulbil
  • Dioecy
  • Dioscorea japonica
  • Sexual reproduction
  • Vegetative reproduction