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Flexible life history responses to flower and rosette bud removal in three perennial herbs

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In a garden experiment we investigated the response to continuous removal of either flower buds or rosette buds in three perennial grassland species (Hypochaeris radicata, Succisa pratensis and Centaurea jacea), which differ in longevity and flowering type. We distinguished two possible responses: compensation for lost buds by making more buds of the same type, and switching towards development of other life history functions. Both responses were demonstrated in our experiment, but bud removal had significantly different effects in each of the three species. The degree of compensation and the expression of trade-offs between life history functions differed markedly between species and seem related to longevity and developmental constraints. With respect to switching, our results suggest costs of reproduction and a trade-off between life history functions, at least for Hypochaeris and Succisa. For these species weight of new rosettes increased when resource allocation to flowering was inhibited. In Hypochaeris, we see that both compensation for lost flower buds and switching from lost rosette buds increased production of flower buds, underscoring the pivotal role of sexual reproduction in this short-lived species. The most prominent response seen in Centaurea is compensation for lost rosette buds, indicating that this long-lived species with monocarpic rosettes relies on rosette formation. Although Succisa does respond to bud removal, time is an important constraint in this species with long-lived rosettes and preformed flowering stalks. Trade-offs in Succisa seem to operate at a larger time scale, requiring long-lasting experiments to reveal them. We conclude that the response of these species to inflicted damage is likely to be linked to their longevity and developmental constraints.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 April 2004

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