DOI: 10.1002/ajb2.16269 ISSN: 0002-9122

Among‐individual variation in flowering phenology affects flowering synchrony and mating opportunity

Wendy R. Shelton, Randall J. Mitchell, Dorothy A. Christopher, Loretha P. Jack, Jeffrey D. Karron
  • Plant Science
  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Premise of the study

The timing and pattern of a plant's flowering can have important consequences for reproductive success. Variation in flowering phenology may influence the number of prospective mates, the risk of mating with lower quality individuals, and the likelihood of self‐pollination. Here we use a common garden experiment to explore within‐ and among‐population variation in phenology. Our work provides new insights into how flowering phenology shapes mating opportunity and flowering synchrony in a self‐compatible perennial.


To quantify variation in flowering phenology we raised progeny from nine populations of Mimulus ringens in a common garden. For each individual, we measured phenological traits including age at flowering onset, daily floral display size, total flower number, and flowering synchrony with other members of the population, and related these traits to mating opportunity. We also tested how individual flowering schedules influence the magnitude of synchrony.

Key Results

Flowering phenology and synchrony varied substantially within and among populations. From day to day, plants often oscillated between large and small daily floral displays. Additionally, flowering schedules of individual plants strongly influenced flowering synchrony and, along with the number of flowering days, markedly affected plants’ mating opportunity.


Phenological traits such as flowering synchrony can affect the quantity of mating opportunities and may be important targets of natural selection. Our results highlight the need for studies that quantify flowering patterns of individuals as well as populations.

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