Journal Article

Reproductive Modes in <i>Leiothrix</i> (Eriocaulaceae) in South-eastern Brazil: The Role of Microenvironmental Heterogeneity

Flávia F. Coelho, Christina Capelo, Leonardo C. Ribeiro and José Eugênio C. Figueira

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 101, issue 3, pages 353-360
Published in print February 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online November 2007 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Reproductive Modes in Leiothrix (Eriocaulaceae) in South-eastern Brazil: The Role of Microenvironmental Heterogeneity

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

The genus Leiothrix (Eriocaulaceae) is restricted to South America and contains 37 taxa. The genus is most species-rich in the mountains of Minas Gerais, where 25 species occur, 19 of them in the Serra do Cipó. Leiothrix taxa that inhabit different microhabitats exhibit a number of reproductive modes. Rhizomatous taxa produce seeds plentifully; therefore, this group were defined as rhizomatous seed-producing. The pseudoviviparous reproductive mode was divided into canopy-forming and rooted. In the first, ramets remain attached to a parental rosette suspended by scapes, whereas in the second, ramets take root and may or may not remain attached to a parental rosette. In this study, it is proposed that microenvironmental heterogeneity is an important factor generating and maintaining reproductive modes in Leiothrix.


Soil analyses and vegetation cover estimates were performed for five Leiothrix taxa occurring in 19 areas along the Serra do Cipó. In these 19 points of the Serra do Cipó, soil data were collected from 27 populations of each species, and vegetation cover data were collected from 20 populations, due to fire that occurred in the region and destroyed most of the vegetation. For each population, three replicates were made. A discriminant function analysis was performed, in an attempt to test the effect of microhabitat features in the differentiation of the reproductive modes.

Key Results

Discriminant function analyses separated the three groups of reproductive modes based mainly on percentage vegetation cover. The pseudoviviparous canopy-forming group occurs under densely crowded conditions, while the pseudoviviparous rooted and rhizomatous seed-producing groups occur in areas with sparse vegetation cover. However, the group pseudoviviparous rooted occurs in soils constituted of exposed sand, while the rhizomatous seed-producing group occurs, frequently, on mat-forming mosses.


Microenvironmental heterogeneity, specifically heterogeneity in percentage cover of vegetation, appears to have influenced the generation and maintenance of reproductive modes in Leiothrix. Reproductive variation within Leiothrix taxa occupying different microenvironments results from a response to fine-scale habitat variation. Therefore, it is proposed that ecological speciation is an important process in adaptive radiation in this genus.

Keywords: Clonal growth; environmental heterogeneity; Leiothrix; life history; morphological variation; pseudovivipary; reproductive modes; rupestrian grasslands

Journal Article.  4926 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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