Journal Article

Effects of floral display size on male and female reproductive success in <i>Mimulus ringens</i>

Jeffrey D. Karron and Randall J. Mitchell

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 109, issue 3, pages 563-570
Published in print February 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online August 2011 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Effects of floral display size on male and female reproductive success in Mimulus ringens

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


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Background and Aims

The number of flowers blooming simultaneously on a plant may have profound consequences for reproductive success. Large floral displays often attract more pollinator visits, increasing outcross pollen receipt. However, pollinators frequently probe more flowers in sequence on large displays, potentially increasing self-pollination and reducing pollen export per flower. To better understand how floral display size influences male and female fitness, we manipulated display phenotypes and then used paternity analysis to quantify siring success and selfing rates.


To facilitate unambiguous assignment of paternity, we established four replicate (cloned) arrays of Mimulus ringens, each consisting of genets with unique combinations of homozygous marker genotypes. In each array, we trimmed displays to two, four, eight or 16 flowers. When fruits ripened, we counted the number of seeds per fruit and assigned paternity to 1935 progeny.

Key Results

Siring success per flower declined sharply with increasing display size, while female success per flower did not vary with display. The rate of self-fertilization increased for large floral displays, but siring losses due to geitonogamous pollen discounting were much greater than siring gains through increased self-fertilization. As display size increased, each additional seed sired through geitonogamous self-pollination was associated with a loss of 9·7 seeds sired through outcrossing.


Although total fitness increased with floral display size, the marginal return on each additional flower declined steadily as display size increased. Therefore, a plant could maximize fitness by producing small displays over a long flowering period, rather than large displays over a brief flowering period.

Keywords: Bumble-bee; floral display size; functional gender; geitonogamy; male selfing rate; mating system; Mimulus ringens; paternity analysis; pollen discounting; pollination; self-fertilization; siring success

Journal Article.  5424 words.  Illustrated.

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

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