Journal Article

Reproductive biology of the andromonoecious <i>Cucumis melo</i> subsp. <i>agrestis</i> (Cucurbitaceae)

Leonie C. Kouonon, Anne-Laure Jacquemart, Arsene I. Zoro Bi, Pierre Bertin, Jean-Pierre Baudoin and Yao Dje

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 104, issue 6, pages 1129-1139
Published in print November 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online August 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Reproductive biology of the andromonoecious Cucumis melo subsp. agrestis (Cucurbitaceae)

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


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Background and Aims

Cucumis melo subsp. agrestis (Cucurbitaceae) is cultivated in many African regions for its edible kernels used as a soup thickener. The plant, an annual, andromonoecious, trailing-vine species, is of high social, cultural and economic value for local communities. In order to improve the yield of this crop, the first step and our aim were to elucidate its breeding system.


Eight experimental pollination treatments were performed during three growing seasons to assess spontaneous selfing, self-compatibility and effects of pollen source (hermaphroditic vs. male flowers). Pollination success was determined by pollen tube growth and reproductive success was assessed by fruit, seed and seedling numbers and characteristics. The pollinator guild was surveyed and the pollination distance determined both by direct observations and by indirect fluorescent dye dispersal.

Key Results

The species is probably pollinated by several Hymenoptera, principally by Hypotrigona para. Pollinator flight distances varied from 25 to 69 cm. No evidence for apomixis or spontaneous self-pollination in the absence of insect visitors was found. The self-fertility index (SFI = 0) indicated a total dependence on pollinators for reproductive success. The effects of hand pollination on fruit set, seed number and seedling fitness differed among years. Pollen tube growth and reproductive success did not differ between self- and cross-pollinations. Accordingly, a high self-compatibility index for the fruit set (SCI = 1·00) and the seed number (SCI = 0·98) and a low inbreeding depression at all developmental stages (cumulative δ = 0·126) suggest a high selfing ability. Finally, pollen origin had no effect on fruit and seed sets.


This andromonoecious species has the potential for a mixed mating system with high dependence on insect-mediated pollination. The selfing rate through geitonogamy should be important.

Keywords: Cucumis melo subsp. agrestis; andromonoecy; breeding system; hand pollination; pollinators; self-compatibility; inbreeding depression

Journal Article.  7043 words.  Illustrated.

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

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