Intra-inflorescence variation in reproductive traits of Conopholis alpina (Orobanchaceae): effect of flower maturation pattern and resource competition

  • Itzel L. Castillo-Sánchez
  • Dulce M. Figueroa-CastroEmail author


The ecological and evolutionary implications of intra-individual variation in plant traits have been acknowledged. Several studies have described the existence of intra-inflorescence variation in reproductive traits. Moreover, some of those studies have attempted to provide a plausible explanation to the gradient of intra-inflorescence variation observed. However, most of them fail to separate the effects of inflorescence architecture from those of resource allocation. The goal of this study was to determine the existence of intra-inflorescence variation in reproductive traits (attractive, reproductive organs, and reproductive success) of Conopholis alpina (Orobanchaceae), a holoparasite plant common in oak forests. Corolla length, number, viability, and diameter of pollen grains per flower, number of ovules per flower, pollen:ovule ratio, fruit size (length, width, and area), number of seeds per fruit, and seed set were measured in reproductive structures produced in three different regions within the inflorescence (i.e., bottom, middle, top). We found a significant effect of the region in which reproductive structures were produced on all traits, except pollen:ovule ratio. In all those traits in which significant differences among regions were found, reproductive traits had the highest values in the middle region of the inflorescence, which is also the first to reach maturity. Moreover, a trade-off between number of seeds and seed weight was detected on the bottom region of the inflorescence. Our results provide strong support towards the existence of differential resource availability among regions within the inflorescence as an explanation to the pattern of intra-inflorescence variation detected.


Holoparasite plant Intra-individual variation Reproductive assurance Reproductive success Resource allocation 



The authors thank the community of Santa Catarina Lachatao in Oaxaca for allowing us to conduct this study in their locality. Juan Hernández and Verónica Hernández were very supportive during logistics and field work. Arturo Casasola-González, Mario Pérez, Sandra Aguilar-García, Luis Padilla, Samantha de los Santos, Laura de Sampedro, Silvia Cruz, Paula Marcos, Alexa Hernández, Diego Hernández, Leslie Marcos, Eva Marcos, Sofía Hernández, Roberto Hernández, Ramiro Santiago, and Armando Santiago were very helpful during field work. Sandra Aguilar-García helped to standardize the protocol for the acetolysis procedure. Arelee Muñoz, Karla López, Xiumy Sánchez, and Alicia Elvira assisted at processing samples in the laboratory. Members of the Hystophysiology laboratory at Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas from Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) allowed the use of their facilities to conduct the acetolysis procedure. Recommendations from Professor Marcos Méndez and an anonymous reviewer significantly improved the manuscript. This study was supported by Vicerrectoría de Investigación y Estudios de Posgrado (VIEP) from Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (Grant Number: FICD-NAT17-I) to D.M. F.-C.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratorio de Interacciones Ecológicas, Facultad de Ciencias BiológicasBenemérita Universidad Autónoma de PueblaPueblaMexico

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