Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 345–367 | Cite as

Flower colour divergence is associated with post-fire regeneration dimorphism in the fynbos heath Erica coccinea subsp. coccinea (Ericaceae)

  • Fernando OjedaEmail author
  • Jeremy Midgley
  • Anton Pauw
  • Anu Lavola
  • Ramón Casimiro-Soriguer
  • Dawood Hattas
  • José Gabriel Segarra-Moragues
  • Riitta Julkunen-Tiitto
Original Paper


The South African Cape fynbos heath Erica coccinea subsp. coccinea is polymorphic for post-fire regeneration mode (seeder/resprouter), flower colour (red/yellow), flowering time (summer-autumn/winter-spring), as well as anther size. These polymorphisms tend to occur between, rather than within, populations. Here, we aimed to understand flower colour divergence in this fynbos heath species and its association with post-fire regeneration. We tested for an association between these polymorphisms. We also examined whether yellow-flowered plants lacked anthocyanins and whether the lack of anthocyanins affected the concentration of other flavonoids, both in flowers and shoots. We found a strong association between flower colour, regeneration mode and flowering phenology. We also detected larger anthers and larger pollen in yellow- than in red-flowered plants, consistently for both resprouter and seeder regeneration strategies. Finally, we ascertained that being yellow-flowered is associated with loss in the capacity of synthesizing anthocyanins in both the flower and in the vegetative tissue. Considering that pollinator availability or preferences do probably not constitute a selection pressure, we propose that both enhanced reproductive success of anthocyaninless, yellow-flowered plants and the avoidance of likely negative pleiotropic effects (early senescence) in seeders would be key to understanding the flower colour divergence in E. coccinea subsp. coccinea.


Anthocyanins Flavonols Flower colour polymorphism Increased male function Negative pleiotropic effects Resprouter Seeder 



Cape Nature and SANPARKS issued the necessary permits for fieldwork. F.O. strongly thanks the Spanish Ministerio de Educación (travel Grant PR2010-0365) and the UCA Plan Propio de Investigación (University of Cádiz; EST2016022) for providing travelling bursaries to do fieldwork.

Author contributions

F.O. planned and designed the research, conducted fieldwork and analysed data. R.C.S. carried out and wrote the Methods for pollen measurements. A.L., D.H. and R.J.-T. performed flavonoid analyses and contributed to write the “Methods” section. J.G.S.-M. performed the genetic analyses. F.O. wrote the manuscript and J.M., A.P. and J.G.S.-M. contributed to the discussion.


This study was conducted with funds from the Spanish Ministerio de Educación (travel Grant PR2010-0365) and the UCA Plan Propio de Investigación (University of Cádiz; EST2016022).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declared that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10682_2019_9985_MOESM1_ESM.docx (32 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 32 kb)
10682_2019_9985_MOESM2_ESM.docx (146 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 146 kb)
10682_2019_9985_MOESM3_ESM.csv (60 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (CSV 59 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Biología - IVAGROUniversidad de CádizPuerto RealSpain
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Cape TownRondebosch, Cape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Botany and ZoologyStellenbosch UniversityMatieland, StellenboschSouth Africa
  4. 4.Natural Product Research Laboratories, Department of Environmental and Biological SciencesUniversity of Eastern Finland (UEF)JoensuuFinland
  5. 5.Departmento de Botánica y Geología, Facultad de Ciencias BiológicasUniversidad de ValenciaBurjassotSpain

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