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Comparisons among populations and individuals to evaluate pollen–pistil interaction as a mechanism of reproductive interference in Taraxacum


Reproductive interference (RI), an interspecific mating interaction that reduces the fitness of at least one of the species involved, can lead to exclusive distributions in closely related species. A hypothesis previously proposed is that RI in plants may occur by ovule usurpation, in which pistils lack interspecific incompatibility and mistakenly accept heterospecific pollen, thereby losing an opportunity for conspecific pollen fertilization. However, few comparative studies have evaluated the consistency of the inferred mechanism within and among individuals and populations. We conducted hand-pollination experiments in six populations of three native Taraxacum species that suffered from different levels of RI from an alien congener, T. officinale, and compared pollen–pistil interactions among populations. We also investigated the interactions for eight individual T. japonicum plants whose response to heterospecific pollen deposition had been previously measured. Our results revealed that pollen tubes often penetrated native ovaries following heterospecific pollination in populations suffering from strong RI, whereas they seldom did in populations suffering from marginal RI. However, the relative frequency of the pollen tube penetration was not significantly related to the strength of alien RI. Not all pistils on an individual plant showed the same pollen receptivity following heterospecific pollination; rather, some accepted and some refused the pollen tubes. The relationship between pollen tube penetration following heterospecific pollination and the strength of the alien RI was also not significant among individuals. Our present results generally support the ovule usurpation hypothesis, but suggest that other factors, such as competition for pollinator services, variation in the effects of heterospecific pollen donors, and condition of the native inflorescences, might also affect the observed RI strength.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

modified from Nishida et al. (2014). Asterisks indicate significant differences between the results following the heterospecific or mixed pollination and the results following conspecific pollination (Wald test with Holm's adjustment; *P < 0.05, **P < 0.01, ***P < 0.001). Error bars show 95% confidence intervals

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We thank Mrs. Natsuko Yoshino (Nagoya University) for cultivation of sample plants, and Dr. Yoshihiko Yonezawa (Naruto University of Education), Mrs. Aiko Kodama, Mrs. Rumi Oyama, Mr. Shinji Fujii (University of Human Environments), and Dr. Tomohiro Yoshida (Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology) for their support during our surveys. We also thank Dr. Tetsuya Higashiyama and all members of the Group of Plant Reproductive Systems in the Laboratory of Molecular Information and Cellular Regulation in Nagoya University for their support and advice on observation of pollen tubes, and Dr. Naoki Hijii, Dr. Hisashi Kajimura, and all members of the Laboratory of Forest Protection in Nagoya University for their warm support. We are deeply grateful to Dr. Takayoshi Nishida (Shiga Prefectural University) and Dr. Tatsuo Oji (Nagoya University) for their useful suggestions and constructive discussions.


This work was funded by KAKENHI Grants (Nos. 22570088, 26440211 and 20K06783 to S. Nishida, Nos. 21770041 and 24113510 to M. M. Kanaoka, and No. 19770023 to K-I. Takakura) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.

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Correspondence to Sachiko Nishida.

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Hashimoto, K., Yamamoto, A., Kanaoka, M.M. et al. Comparisons among populations and individuals to evaluate pollen–pistil interaction as a mechanism of reproductive interference in Taraxacum. J Plant Res 135, 29–40 (2022).

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  • Heterospecific pollen transfer
  • Pollen–pistil interaction
  • Reproductive interference
  • Taraxacum
  • Taraxacum officinale