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1.  The impact of extensive clonal growth on fine-scale mating patterns: a full paternity analysis of a lily-of-the-valley population (Convallaria majalis) 
Annals of Botany  2013;111(4):623-628.
Background and Aims
The combination of clonality and a mating system promoting outcrossing is considered advantageous because outcrossing avoids the fitness costs of selfing within clones (geitonogamy) while clonality assures local persistence and increases floral display. The spatial spread of genetically identical plants (ramets) may, however, also decrease paternal diversity (the number of sires fertilizing a given dam) and fertility, particularly towards the centre of large clumped clones. This study aimed to quantify the impact of extensive clonal growth on fine-scale paternity patterns in a population of the allogamous Convallaria majalis.
A full analysis of paternity was performed by genotyping all flowering individuals and all viable seeds produced during a single season using AFLP. Mating patterns were examined and the spatial position of ramets was related to the extent of multiple paternity, fruiting success and seed production.
Key Results
The overall outcrossing rate was high (91 %) and pollen flow into the population was considerable (27 %). Despite extensive clonal growth, multiple paternity was relatively common (the fraction of siblings sharing the same father was 0·53 within ramets). The diversity of offspring collected from reproductive ramets surrounded by genetically identical inflorescences was as high as among offspring collected from ramets surrounded by distinct genets. There was no significant relationship between the similarity of the pollen load received by two ramets and the distance between them. Neither the distance of ramets with respect to distinct genets nor the distance to the genet centre significantly affected fruiting success or seed production.
Random mating and considerable pollen inflow most probably implied that pollen dispersal distances were sufficiently high to mitigate local mate scarcity despite extensive clonal spread. The data provide no evidence for the intrusion of clonal growth on fine-scale plant mating patterns.
PMCID: PMC3605957  PMID: 23439847
Paternity analysis; mate diversity; outcrossing; mating opportunities; AFLP; reproductive success; seed set; ramet; lily-of-the-valley; Convallaria majalis
2.  Differences in dichogamy and herkogamy contribute to higher selfing in contrasting environments in the annual Blackstonia perfoliata (Gentianaceae) 
Annals of Botany  2013;111(4):651-661.
Background and Aims
The establishment of plant populations in novel environments may generate pronounced shifts in floral traits and plant mating systems, particularly when pollinators are scarce. In this study, floral morphology and mating system functioning are compared between recently established and older populations of the annual plant Blackstonia perfoliata that occur in different pollinator environments.
Hand-pollination and emasculation experiments were conducted to assess the extent of pollinator-mediated pollen deposition and pollen limitation, and the contribution of autonomous selfing to total seed production. Detailed measurements of key floral traits were performed to compare the flower morphology and mating system functioning between plants from both pollination environments.
Key Results
Pollinator-mediated pollen deposition was about twice as low in the recently colonized and pollinator-poor environment compared with the old and pollinator-rich sites, but total seed set was little affected by any type of pollen limitation. The contribution of autonomous selfing to total seed production was higher in the pollinator-poor sites than in the pollinator-rich sites (index of reproductive assurance = 0·56 and 0·17, respectively), and seed production was only poorly affected by selfing, whereas in the pollinator-rich populations selfing reduced total reproductive output by about 40 % compared with outcross pollination. Plants originating from pollinator-poor environments produced smaller flowers that showed significantly lower levels of dichogamy (i.e. protogyny) and herkogamy. These reductions resulted in a 2-fold higher capacity for autonomous selfing under pollinator-free conditions (index of autonomous selfing = 0·81 and 0·41 in plants originating from the pollinator-poor and pollinator-rich environment, respectively).
The results illustrate that plant populations colonizing novel environments can differ markedly in floral morphology and mating system functioning. Due to a temporal shift in the male phase, the breeding system of B. perfoliata shifted from delayed selfing under pollinator-rich conditions towards competing selfing in recently established populations, providing greater reproductive assurance when pollinators and/or reproductive partners are limited.
PMCID: PMC3605963  PMID: 23408833
Autogamy; competing selfing; delayed selfing; dichogamy; herkogamy; pollen limitation; pollen quality; reproductive assurance; Blackstonia perfoliata; Gentianaceae
3.  Reproductive isolation and hybridization in sympatric populations of three Dactylorhiza species (Orchidaceae) with different ploidy levels 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(4):709-720.
Background and Aims
The potential for gene exchange between species with different ploidy levels has long been recognized, but only a few studies have tested this hypothesis in situ and most of them focused on not more than two co-occurring species. In this study, we examined hybridization patterns in two sites containing three species of the genus Dactylorhiza (diploid D. incarnata and D. fuchsii and their allotetraploid derivative D. praetermissa).
To compare the strength of reproductive barriers between diploid species, and between diploid and tetraploid species, crossing experiments were combined with morphometric and molecular analyses using amplified fragment length polymorphism markers, whereas flow cytometric analyses were used to verify the hybrid origin of putative hybrids.
Key Results
In both sites, extensive hybridization was observed, indicating that gene flow between species is possible within the investigated populations. Bayesian assignment analyses indicated that the majority of hybrids were F1 hybrids, but in some cases triple hybrids (hybrids with three species as parents) were observed, suggesting secondary gene flow. Crossing experiments showed that only crosses between pure species yielded a high percentage of viable seeds. When hybrids were involved as either pollen-receptor or pollen-donor, almost no viable seeds were formed, indicating strong post-zygotic reproductive isolation and high sterility.
Strong post-mating reproductive barriers prevent local breakdown of species boundaries in Dactylorhiza despite frequent hybridization between parental species. However, the presence of triple hybrids indicates that in some cases hybridization may extend the F1 generation.
PMCID: PMC3286275  PMID: 22186278
AFLP; Dactylorhiza incarnata; Dactylorhiza praetermissa; genetic analysis; hybridization; morphology; polyploidy; reproductive isolation; triple hybrid
4.  Biased morph ratios and skewed mating success contribute to loss of genetic diversity in the distylous Pulmonaria officinalis 
Annals of Botany  2011;109(1):227-235.
Background and Aims
In heterostylous plant species, skewed morph ratios are not uncommon and may arise from a range of factors. Despite the recognized importance of skewed morph ratios on overall reproductive success within populations, little is known about the impact of skewed morph ratios on population genetic diversity and differentiation in heterostylous species. This study specifically aimed to clarify the effect of population size and morph bias on population genetic diversity and differentiation in the temperate forest herb Pulmonaria officinalis. This species is characterized by a distylous breeding system and shows morph-specific differences in reproductive success.
Genetic diversity was determined for 27 P. officinalis populations in northern Belgium by using eight recently developed microsatellite markers. Multiple regressions were used to assess the relationship between genetic diversity, morph bias and population size, and FST-values were calculated for short- and long-styled morphs separately to study genetic differentiation as a function of morph type.
Key Results
For all genetic measures used, morph bias was more important in explaining patterns of genetic diversity than population size, and in all cases patterns of population genetic diversity followed a quadratic function, which showed a symmetrical decrease in genetic diversity with increasing morph bias. However, probably due to the reproductive advantage of L-morphs relative to S-morphs, maximum genetic diversity was found in populations showing an excess of L-morphs (60·7 % L-morph). On the other hand, no significant difference in pairwise genetic distances between populations was observed between L- (0·107) and S-morphs (0·106).
Our results indicate that significant deviations from equal morph ratios not only affect plant reproductive success but also population genetic diversity of heterostylous plant species. Hence, when defining conservation measures for populations of heterostylous plant species, morph ratios should be considered as an important trait affecting their long-term population viability.
PMCID: PMC3241589  PMID: 22021814
Boraginaceae; distyly; FST; genetic diversity; microsatellite analysis; morph bias; Pulmonaria officinalis; skewed mating success
5.  Variation in the functioning of autonomous self-pollination, pollinator services and floral traits in three Centaurium species 
Annals of Botany  2011;107(6):917-925.
Background and Aims
Reproductive assurance through autonomous selfing is thought to be one of the main advantages of self-fertilization in plants. Floral mechanisms that ensure autonomous seed set are therefore more likely to occur in species that grow in habitats where pollination is scarce and/or unpredictable.
Emasculation and pollen supplementation experiments were conducted under laboratory conditions to investigate the capacity for, and timing of autonomous selfing in three closely related Centaurium species (Centaurium erythraea, C. littorale and C. pulchellum). In addition, observations of flower visitors were combined with emasculation and pollen addition experiments in natural populations to investigate the degree of pollinator limitation and pollination failure and to assess the extent to which autonomous selfing conferred reproductive assurance.
All three species were capable of autonomous selfing, although this capacity differed significantly between species (index of autonomous selfing 0·55 ± 0·06, 0·68 ± 0·09 and 0·92 ± 0·03 for C. erythraea, C. littorale and C. pulchellum, respectively). The efficiency and timing of autogamous selfing was primarily associated with differences in the degree of herkogamy and dichogamy. The number of floral visitors showed significant interspecific differences, with 1·6 ± 0·6, 5·4 ± 0·6 and 14·5 ± 2·1 floral visitors within a 2 × 2 m2 plot per 20-min observation period, for C. pulchellum, C. littorale and C. erythraea, respectively. Concomitantly, pollinator failure was highest in C. pulchellum and lowest in C. erythraea. Nonetheless, all three study species showed very low levels of pollen limitation (index of pollen limitation 0·14 ± 0·03, 0·11 ± 0·03 and 0·09 ± 0·02 for C. erythraea, C. littorale and C. pulchellum, respectively), indicating that autonomous selfing may guarantee reproductive assurance.
These findings show that limited availability of pollinators may select for floral traits and plant mating strategies that lead to a system of reproductive assurance via autonomous selfing.
PMCID: PMC3080621  PMID: 21320880
Autonomous selfing; Centaurium erythraea; Centaurium littorale; Centaurium pulchellum; competing selfing; delayed selfing; floral emasculation; pollen-limitation; pollinator failure; pollen : ovule ratio; reproductive assurance
6.  Mycorrhizal associations and reproductive isolation in three closely related Orchis species 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(3):347-356.
Background and Aims
The maintenance of species boundaries in sympatric populations of closely related species requires some kind of reproductive isolation that limits gene flow among species and/or prevents the production of viable progeny. Because in orchids mycorrhizal fungi are needed for seed germination and subsequent seedling establishment, orchid–mycorrhizal associations may be involved in acting as a post-mating barrier.
We investigated the strength of post-mating barriers up to the seed germination stage acting between three closely related Orchis species (Orchis anthropophora, O. militaris and O. purpurea) and studied the role of mycorrhizal fungi in hybridization by burying seed packets of pure and hybrid seeds. After retrieval and assessment of seed germination, the fungi associating with protocorms originating from hybrid and pure seeds were determined and compared with those associating with adult individuals using DNA array technology.
Whereas pre-zygotic post-mating barriers were rather weak in most crosses, post-zygotic post-mating barriers were stronger, particularly when O. purpurea was crossed with O. anthropophora. Germination trials in the field showed that seed germination percentages of hybrid seeds were in most cases lower than those originating from pure crosses. In all species pair combinations, total post-mating reproductive isolation was asymmetric. Protocorms associated with a smaller range of fungal symbionts than adult plants, but there was considerable overlap in mycorrhizal associations between protocorms and their respective parents.
Our results suggest that mycorrhizal associations contribute little to reproductive isolation. Pre-mating barriers are probably the main factors determining hybridization rates between the investigated species.
PMCID: PMC3043927  PMID: 21186239
DNA array; gene flow; hybrid zones; mycorrhizal associations; reproductive barriers; seed germination
7.  Extremely low genotypic diversity and sexual reproduction in isolated populations of the self-incompatible lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) and the role of the local forest environment 
Annals of Botany  2010;105(5):769-776.
Background and Aims
Clonal growth is a common phenomenon in plants and allows them to persist when sexual life-cycle completion is impeded. Very low levels of recruitment from seed will ultimately result in low levels of genotypic diversity. The situation can be expected to be exacerbated in spatially isolated populations of obligated allogamous species, as low genotypic diversities will result in low availability of compatible genotypes and low reproductive success. Populations of the self-incompatible forest herb lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) were studied with the aim of inferring the relative importance of sexual and asexual recruitment. Then the aim was to establish a relationship between genotypic diversity, sexual reproduction and the local forest environment.
Highly polymorphic microsatellite markers were used to investigate clonal diversities and population genetic structure of 20 populations of C. majalis in central Belgium.
Key Results
Most of the populations studied consisted of a single genotype and linkage disequilibrium within populations was high, manifesting clonal growth as the main mode of reproduction. A population consisting of multiple genotypes mainly occurred in locations with a thin litter layer and high soil phosphorus levels, suggesting environment-mediated sporadic recruitment from seed. Highly significant genetic differentiation indicated that populations are reproductively isolated. In agreement with the self-incompatibility of C. majalis, monoclonal populations showed very low or even absent fruit set.
Lack of sexual recruitment in spatially isolated C. majalis populations has resulted in almost monoclonal populations with reduced or absent sexual reproduction, potentially constraining their long-term persistence. The local forest environment may play an important role in mediating sexual recruitment in clonal forest plant species.
PMCID: PMC2859916  PMID: 20228091
Convallaria majalis; clonal; genotypic diversity; population genetics; remnant populations; SSR; forest herb; rhizomatous; self-incompatible; reproductive success
8.  Rapid loss of genetic variation in a founding population of Primula elatior (Primulaceae) after colonization 
Annals of Botany  2008;103(5):777-783.
Background and Aims
Land-use changes and associated extinction/colonization dynamics can have a large impact on population genetic diversity of plant species. The aim of this study was to investigate genetic diversity in a founding population of the self-incompatible forest herb Primula elatior and to elucidate the processes that affect genetic diversity shortly after colonization.
AFLP markers were used to analyse genetic diversity across three age classes and spatial genetic structure within a founding population of P. elatior in a recently established stand in central Belgium. Parentage analyses were used to assess the amount of gene flow from outside the population and to investigate the contribution of mother plants to future generations.
The genetic diversity of second and third generation plants was significantly reduced compared with that of first generation plants. Significant spatial genetic structure was observed. Parentage analyses showed that <20 % of the youngest individuals originated from parents outside the study population and that >50 % of first and second generation plants did not contribute to seedling recruitment.
These results suggest that a small effective population size and genetic drift can lead to rapid decline of genetic diversity of offspring in founding populations shortly after colonization. This multigenerational study also highlights that considerable amounts of gene flow seem to be required to counterbalance genetic drift and to sustain high levels of genetic diversity after colonization in recently established stands.
PMCID: PMC2707865  PMID: 19106180
AFLP; colonization; forest regeneration; genetic diversity; genetic drift; parentage analysis; spatial genetic structure

Results 1-8 (8)