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Fluctuating selection by water level on gynoecium colour polymorphism in an aquatic plant

Tang, Xiao-Xin, Huang, Shuang-Quan
Annals of botany 2010 v.106 no.5 pp. 843-848
Butomus umbellatus, aquatic plants, color, environmental impact, gynoecium, morphs, open pollination, pollinators, seed set, seeds
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: It has been proposed that variation in pollinator preferences or a fluctuating environment can act to maintain flower colour polymorphism. These two hypotheses were tested in an aquatic monocot Butomus umbellatus (Butomaceae) with a pink or white gynoecium in the field population. METHODS: Pollinator visitation was compared in experimental arrays of equivalent flowering cymes from both colour morphs. Seed set was compared between inter- and intramorph pollination under different water levels to test the effect of fluctuating environment on seed fertility. KEY RESULTS: Overall, the major pollinator groups did not discriminate between colour morphs. Compared with the white morph, seed production in the pink morph under intermorph, intramorph and open pollination treatments was significantly higher when the water level was low but not when it was high. Precipitation in July was correlated with yearly seed production in the pink morph but not in the white morph. CONCLUSIONS: The results indicated that the two colour morphs differed in their tolerance to water level. Our study on this aquatic plant provides additional evidence to support the hypothesis that flower colour polymorphism can be preserved by environmental heterogeneity.