Journal Article

Diversity of sexual systems within different lineages of the genus Silene

Inés Casimiro-Soriguer, Maria L. Buide and Eduardo Narbona


Published on behalf of Annals of Botany Company

Volume 7, issue
Published online May 2015 | e-ISSN: 2041-2851 | DOI:

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Plant Evolution
  • Plant Reproduction and Propagation


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Species and populations can be categorized by their sexual systems, depending on the spatial distribution of female and male reproductive structures within and among plants. Although a high diversity of sexual systems exists in Silene, their relative frequency at the genus and infrageneric level is unknown. Here, we carried out an extensive literature search for direct or indirect descriptions of sexual systems in Silene species. We found descriptions of sexual systems for 98 Silene species, where 63 and 35 correspond to the phylogenetically supported subgenera Silene and Behenantha, respectively. Hermaphroditism was the commonest sexual system (58.2 %), followed by dioecy (14.3 %), gynodioecy (13.3 %) and gynodioecy–gynomonoecy (i.e. hermaphroditic, female and gynomonoecious plants coexisting in the same population; 12.2 %). The presence of these sexual systems in both subgenera suggests their multiple origins. In 17 species, the description of sexual systems varied, and in most cases these differences corresponded to variations within or among populations. Interestingly, the poorly studied gynodioecy–gynomonoecy sexual system showed similar frequency to dioecy and gynodioecy in both subgenera. In addition, the incidence of gynodioecy–gynomonoecy was analysed in the species of section Psammophilae (Silene littorea, S. psammitis, S. adscendens and S. cambessedesii), in a survey of 26 populations across the distribution area of the species. The four species showed gynomonoecy–gynodioecy in most populations. Hermaphrodites were the most frequent morph, with a low number of females and gynomonoecious plants in all populations. The frequency of sexual morphs varied significantly among the studied populations but not among species. Female plants generally produced smaller numbers of flowers than hermaphroditic or gynomonoecious plants, and the percentages of female flowers per population were low. All these findings suggest that the gynodioecious–gynomonoecious sexual system in section Psammophilae is closer to hermaphroditism or gynomonoecy than gynodioecy.

Keywords: Behenantha; Caryophyllaceae; dioecy; gynodioecy; gynodioecy–gynomonoecy; hermaphroditism; Psammophilae; sexual polymorphism; sexual system; Silene

Journal Article.  7854 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Plant Evolution ; Plant Reproduction and Propagation

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