Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Development of male and female flower in Asparagus officinalis. Search for point of transition from hermaphroditic to unisexual developmental pathway

  • 289 Accesses

  • 44 Citations


Asparagus officinalis is a dioecious plant. The flowers start to develop as hermaphrodites and later become unisexual. In female flowers the stamens degenerate, while in male flowers the ovary stops growing without degenerating. We have examined young asparagus flowers using SEM and optical microscopy in order to determine the exact moment of transition from hermaphroditic to unisexual development. We defined 13 stages of development, starting from flower primordia up to completely mature flowers and labelled them with numbers from -6 to 7. The first five stages are fully hermaphroditic: a difference between sexes becomes visible at stage — 1 when the style begins to develop in female flowers. Degeneration of stamens in female flowers starts somewhat later. At the stage of transition, some differences between sexes also appear in the bidimensional polypeptide pattern of flowers. RNase activity shows a distinct peak at this stage (in female flowers only), probably related to stamen degeneration.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Arber A (1925) Monocotyledons. A morphological study. Cambridge University Press Cambridge

  2. Blank A, McKeon T A (1991a) Three RNases in senescent and nonsenescent wheat leaves. Plant Physiol 97:1402–1408

  3. Blank A, McKeon T A (1991b) Expression of three RNase activities during natural and dark-induced senescence of wheat leaves. Plant Physiol 97:1409–1413

  4. Bopp-Hassenkamp G (1959) “Cytomixis” im elektronmikroskopischen Bild. Exp Cell Res 18:182–184

  5. Bowman G L, Smyth D R, Meyerowitz E M (1989) Genes directing flower development in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 1:37–52

  6. Bracale M, Galli M G, Falavigna A, Soave C (1990) Sexual differentiation in Asparagus officinalis L. II. Total and newly synthesized proteins in male and female flowers. Sex Plant Reprod 3:23–30

  7. Bracale M, Caporali E, Galli M G, Longo C, Marziani-Longo G, Rossi G, Spada A, Soave C, Falavigna A, Raffaldi F, Maestri E, Restivo F M, Tassi F (1991) Sex determination and differentiation in Asparagus officinalis L. Plant Sci 80:67–77

  8. De Moreno M R, Smith J F, Smith R V (1985) Silver staining of protein in polyacrylamide gels. Increased sensitivity through a combined Coomassie blue-silver stain procedure. Anal Biochem 151:466–470

  9. Galli M G, Bracale M, Falavigna A, Raffaldi F, Savini C, Vigo A (1993) Different kinds of male flowers in the dioecious plant Asparagus officinalis L. Sex Plant Reprod 6:16–21

  10. Heslop-Harrison J (1972) Sexuality in angiosperms. In: Steward F O (ed) Plant physiology. A treatise. Academic Press, New York pp 133–289

  11. Lazarte J E, Palsen B F (1979) Morphology, vascular anatomy and embryology of pistillate and staminate flowers of Asparagus officinalis L. Am J Bot 66:753–764

  12. Longo C (1993) Genes controlling sex expression. In Williams E G Knox R B, Clarke E E (eds) Genetic control of self-incompatibility and reproductive development in flowering plants Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht (in press)

  13. Mariani C, De Beuckeleer M, Truettner J, Leemans J, Goldberg R B (1990) Induction of male sterility in plants by a chimaeric ribonuclease gene. Nature 347:737–741

  14. Marks M (1973) A reconsideration of genetic mechanisms for sex determination in Asparagus officinalis. Procedings, Eucarpia meeting on Asparagus Versailles, pp 122–130

  15. Marziani Longo G P, Rossi G, Scaglione G, Longo C P, Soave C (1990) Sexual differentiation in Asparagus officinalis L. III. Hormonal content and peroxidase isoenzymes in female and male plants. Sex Plant Reprod 3:236–243

  16. McClure B A, Haring V, Ebert P R, Anderson M A, Simpson R J, Sakiyama F, Clarke A (1989) Style self-incompatibility gene products of Nicotiana alata are ribonucleases. Nature 342:955–957

  17. Mollenhauer H H (1964) Plastic embedding mixtures for use in electron microscopy. Stain Technol 39:111–114

  18. O'Farrell P H (1975) High resolution two dimensional electrophoresis of protein. J Biol Chem 250:195–206

  19. Smyth D R, Bowman J L, Meyerowitz E M (1990). Early flower development in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 2:755–767

  20. Westergaard M (1958) The mechanism of sex determination in dioecious flowering plants. Adv Genet 9:217–281

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Caporali, E., Carboni, A., Galli, M.G. et al. Development of male and female flower in Asparagus officinalis. Search for point of transition from hermaphroditic to unisexual developmental pathway. Sexual Plant Reprod 7, 239–249 (1994).

Download citation

Key words

  • Asparagus
  • Flower development
  • Sex differentiation
  • Male and female RNase activity