A comparison of growth and reproduction, under laboratory conditions, of males and females of a dioecious fig tree

Abstract

The interaction between Ficus spp. (Moraceae) and their pollinating wasps (Chalcidoidae: Agaonidae) is a highly co-evolved mutualism. Approximately half of all fig species are monoecious and produce a mixture of wasps and seeds within the same fig. In functionally dioecious fig trees male and female functions are separate. Figs on male trees produce wasps and pollen, whereas figs borne on female plants produce only seeds. Dioecious fig phenology provides an excellent opportunity to investigate the effect of sexual specialization on the obligate fig–fig wasp interaction and the non-pollinators associated with the system. Here we describe laboratory studies of phenological variation between two sexes in terms of vegetative growth and fig production in a dioecious fig tree Ficus montana. We also describe reproductive output in terms of wasp production in males and seeds in females. Intrasexual asynchrony was observed for the plants, with synchrony between the sexes with year-round production of figs. Male plants grew more rapidly, but leaf phenology was very similar. Crop sizes and development times were the same for males and females. Seasonal effects were strong for leaf phenology and fig initiation, but had a very limited effect on fig composition. The results show that the phenological differences described for other dioecious figs do not apply to all species.

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Acknowledgments

Thanks to Martin Lappage for invaluable support at the Leeds University Experimental Gardens. Financial support to NS and SR was provided by The Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan. Two anonymous referees provided thoughtful insights and suggestions after reading our initial submission.

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Correspondence to Nazia Suleman.

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Suleman, N., Raja, S. & Compton, S.G. A comparison of growth and reproduction, under laboratory conditions, of males and females of a dioecious fig tree. Plant Syst Evol 296, 245 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00606-011-0491-6

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Keywords

  • Dioecy
  • Ficus montana
  • Glasshouse studies
  • Liporrhopalum
  • Pollination
  • Phenology