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Evolution of clonal growth forms in angiosperms

Herben, Tomáš, Klimešová, Jitka
Thenew phytologist 2020 v.225 no.2 pp. 999-1010
Angiospermae, evolution, flora, plant growth, progeny, rhizomes, roots, stolons
Clonal growth of plants is attained by a number of morphologically different organs (e.g. stolons, rhizomes, and roots), which are not functionally equivalent. Consequently, these clonal growth organ (CGO) types can determine functional traits that are associated with clonality, although little is known about their evolutionary flexibility or the constraining role they play on clonal traits. We investigated the rates of evolutionary change by which individual CGOs are acquired and lost using a set of 2652 species of Central European flora. Furthermore, we asked how these individual CGOs constrain functionally relevant clonal traits, such as lateral spread, number of offspring, and persistence of connections. We show that plants can easily switch in evolution among individual types of CGO and between clonal and nonclonal habits. However, not all these transitions are equally probable. Namely, stem‐based clonal growth and root‐based clonal growth constitute evolutionarily separate forms of clonal growth. Clonal traits are strongly constrained by individual CGO types. Specifically, fast lateral spread is attained by stolons or hypogeogenous rhizomes, and persistent connections are attained by all rhizome types. However, the ease with which clonal organs appear and disappear in evolution implies that plants can overcome these constraints by adjusting their morphologies.