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Citizen scientists bring surprising insights into cowslip mating system

Source: phys.org

About half of the individuals of cowslip (Primula veris) have flowers with a short style, while the other half of individuals produce flowers with a long style. Recent discoveries have suggested that the loss and fragmentation of habitats may shake this optimal balance of morphologically different plants. This, in turn, decreases the reproductive success of plants and jeopardises their future viability.

As the primary habitat, cowslips prefer semi-natural grasslands, which have experienced a dramatic area loss over the last hundred years throughout Europe. The study coordinated by the ecologists of the University of Tartu and the Estonian Fund for Nature aimed to examine whether this drastic landscape change has led to deviations in morph balance. MORE

Header image: Cowslip is a distylous species with two morphologically different types of flowers. Plants with short-styled or S-morphs (photo A; sometimes referred to as thrum plants) carry flowers with a short style and long anthers, while long-styled L-morphs (or pin plants; photo B) have a long style and short anthers. Generally, successful fertilisation takes place only in case of reciprocal pollen flow between different morphs, while within-morph crosses lead to no progenies. Credit: Tsipe Aavik