Hermaphrodite wildflower has its own battle of the sexes | Science News

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Hermaphrodite wildflower has its own battle of the sexes

What’s best for the floral male bits clashes with what’s best for female parts

By
8:00am, July 7, 2017
wildflower

SEXUAL CONFLICT  The male and female organs in each white bloom of the wildflower called starry campion are locked in an evolutionary war of parenthood.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Petals of wildflowers called starry campions may be a pretty little battleground for a sexual skirmish between the plant’s male and female parts.

As is common in flowers, each Silene stellata bloom forms both male and female sex organs. After measuring petal variation between plants and tracking parenthood of seeds, Juannan Zhou suspected a sexual tug-of-war.

Flowers with greater male success in spreading pollen and siring seeds across a flower patch tended toward longer and narrower petals, Zhou reported June 26 at the Evolution 2017 meeting. Yet flowers that did especially well by their female organs, maturing abundant seeds in their own ovaries, tended toward wider and shorter petals.

Zhou, of the University of Maryland in College Park, pieced together the story while

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