Phenotypic plasticity and bet-hedging in a heterocarpic winter annual/spring ephemeral cold desert species of Brassicaceae

Juan J. Lu, Dun Y. Tan, Jerry M. Baskin, Carol C. Baskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Phenotypic plasticity can play an important role in colonization and survival of plants in an environmentally fluctuating habitat. The primary aim of this study was to determine the influence of level of abiotic (soil moisture and nutrient availability) and biotic (density and herbivory) factors on phenotypic plasticity in the number and proportional mass allocation to the heteromorphic dehiscent upper (high dispersal, low dormancy) and indehiscent lower (low dispersal, high dormancy) siliques of individuals of the cold desert winter annual/spring ephemeral Diptychocarpus strictus derived from different seed morphs. Plants produced from seeds sown in an experimental garden were subjected to different levels of soil moisture, nutrient supply, density and simulated herbivory. Mass allocated to vegetative and reproductive components was measured and number of upper and lower siliques counted. Except for number ratio of upper: lower siliques under nutrient supply, levels of the four treatments resulted in significant variation in total plant mass, reproductive mass, number of siliques (upper and lower), number and mass of each silique morph, individual seed mass, upper/lower silique ratio and mass allocation to each organ in an individual. In favorable environments, the upper/lower silique ratio was relatively high, while in unfavorable environments it was relatively low. The relative allocation to upper and lower siliques was significantly negatively correlated, suggesting that allocation to upper siliques in good growth conditions occurred at the expense of allocation to lower siliques. This appears to be the first report on the effect of herbivory on diaspore morph ratio in heterocarpic plants and one of only a very few on the effect of density on morph ratio in this group. In D. strictus, stressful vs nonstressful growth conditions caused a shift in the ratio of heteromorphic diaspores, which themselves are assumed to be bet-hedging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-366
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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