Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart KG · New York
Timing of Sexual Reproduction and Reproductive Success in the High-Mountain Plant Saxifraga bryoides L.
Received: February 23, 2006
Accepted: February 16, 2007
31 May 2007 (eFirst)
Saxifraga bryoides L. is one of the plant species reaching the upper limits of distribution for flowering plants in the European Alps. Because of its abundance in the subnival and nival zones, we expected S. bryoides to reproduce efficiently in the highly stochastic climate at higher altitudes. Investigations were carried out at two subnival sites (2650 m and 2880 m a.s.l.) in the Austrian Alps. We studied flowering phenology, dynamics of seed development, and reproductive success in the climatically different years from 2001 - 2004. For a nival plant species, S. bryoides showed a particularly long prefloration period (6 - 9 weeks). From onset of anthesis until seed maturity took an individual flower another 6 - 7 weeks and all individuals at a site 9 - 10 weeks. The length of the prefloration period and seed histogenesis was temperature-dependent, whereas seed maturation seemed to be endogenously controlled. Only in the exceptionally long and warm growing season of 2003 did all fruits mature at a site. In the other years, the onset of winter conditions halted development in many fruits before maturity. The seed/ovule ratio of mature fruits was around 0.7 in all years. The relative reproductive success (RRS) ranged from zero to 0.7, depending on the site and year. In conclusion, S. bryoides needs an unexpectedly long time to undergo reproductive development. Though fruit maturation is uncertain, the high S/O ratio of single intact fruits results in at least a small seed crop in most years. This seems to be sufficient to assure the spread and maintenance of S. bryoides at higher altitudes. As a seed-risk strategist ([Molau, 1993]), S. bryoides would clearly benefit from a prolonged growing season, which might occur more often if climate warming continues.
Saxifraga bryoides - high-mountain plant - flowering phenology - prefloration period - reproductive success - seed development - thermal time.