All in an afternoon: mixed breeding system in one-day lasting flowers of Hypericum elodes L. (Hypericaceae)

posted on 16.02.2015 by A. Carta, L. Savio, G. Bedini, L. Peruzzi, A. Fisogni, M. Galloni

Knowledge about mixed mating systems can improve our understanding of the evolutionary dynamics of reproductive systems. Here we report a study of the floral and reproductive biology of Hypericum elodes, an Atlantic-European soft-water pools specialist which shows a floral architecture consistent with both self- and cross-pollination. Controlled pollination experiments were performed in a natural population during three consecutive years. Marked flowers were monitored until fruit production, and laboratory germination experiments were conducted with the seeds produced. Plants were self-compatible (SCI>0.75), however, compared with selfing, cross-pollination enhanced fruit-set, seed-set and seedling growth, but not seed germination. Inbreeding depression (δ) was mild in the pre-dispersal stages (δ = 0.22 for fruit set, 0.18 for seed set and 0.13 for seed mass), low for germination percentage (δ = 0.003) and mild for seedling growth (δ = 0.23). The breeding system of H. elodes promotes outcrossing and assures reproductive success by means of competitive autogamy. Our results suggest a mixed mating strategy for the studied population, characterized by mild inbreeding depression (cumulative δ = 0.57), highlighting the benefit of this reproductive mode in unpredictable habitat, as the typical shallow-water meadows where H. elodes grows.