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Seed germination in cleistogamous species: theoretical considerations and a literature survey of experimental results

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 April 2017

Jerry M. Baskin
Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0225, USA
Carol C. Baskin
Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0225, USA Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546-0312, USA
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A cleistogamous species consists of individuals that produce both chasmogamous (open, CH) and cleistogamous (permanently closed, CL) flowers, which facilitates a mixed-mating system. In contrast to what one might expect, CL (obligately selfed) seeds and the plants derived from them can be more fit than CH (potentially outcrossed) seeds and the plants they give rise to. Our aim was to review some theoretical aspects of mixed mating in relation to retention of both CH and CL in cleistogamous species and to determine if data on germination support the notion that CL is advantageous over that of CH. Based on germination (or seedling emergence) of CH vs CL seeds in 29 species in 21 genera and 11 families of monocots and eudicots, CL seeds germinated better in 107 and equally well as in 64 of 252 case studies as CH seeds (67.9%), and the (CH < CL):(CH > CL) ratio was 107/81 (1.32). We conclude that our study lends support to the notion that production of CL seeds by cleistogamous species is advantageous over that of CH seeds. Retention of CH by CL species may be due to the need to prevent complete selfing (s= 1.0) and thus total inbreeding depression (δ), which theory predicts would decrease reproductive success. Some caveats concerning the results of comparative studies on the germination biology of CH vs CL seeds of amphicarpic sensu stricto Fabaceae species and Commelina benghalensis and the aerial cleistogamous grass Danthonia spicata are discussed.

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