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Glennon, Kelsey [1], Mtileni, Masingitla [2], Payne, Stephanie [2], Mathura, Sadhna [3].

Drakensberg confetti: what drives flower color variation in a mountain endemic?

Environmental variables may enable to the evolution of flower colour polymorphisms within plant populations or species. Across the Hypoxidaceae (Star Grass family), both flower color and species diversity are centered within southern Africa. Biochemical analyses paired with petal peels indicates the presence of anthocyanins and carotenoids, as well as chlorophyll and structural color in some species. A Drakensberg near-endemic species, Rhodohypoxis baurii (Baker) Nel. var. confecta comprises variable flower colors (pink/white) that appear to shift in frequency across the flowering season. Given the seeming absence of pollinators in the population, we sought to test the effect of soil moisture and solar radiation in a controlled growth chamber environment (using UV lights as a proxy) to investigate whether solar radiation and soil moisture underpin emergence of white or pink flowers. We also tested for fitness differences between color morphs in the field. Three years of count data showed that more pink flowers than white flowers emerged towards the end of the flowering season relative to early and mid-time points over the flowering season. While there were consistently more pink flowers produced in the field overall, white flowers produced more seeds. Moreover, in our controlled experiments, plants with exposure to UV and high soil moisture produced more pigmented flowers, but they did not produce any seeds. Collectively, these data indicate that environmental variables are likely responsible for the flower color variation observed in R. baurii var. confecta.

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1 - University Of The Witwatersrand, Animal, Plant & Environmental Sciences, Private Bag X3, Johannesburg, GT, WITS 2050, South Africa
2 - University of the Witwatersrand, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, 1 Jan Smuts Ave, Braamfontein, 2000, South Africa
3 - University of the Witwatersrand, School of Chemistry, 1 Jan Smuts Ave, Braamfontein, 2000, South Africa

flower color.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: ECO7, Ecology: Reproductive Biology
Location: /
Date: Thursday, July 22nd, 2021
Time: 3:30 PM(EDT)
Number: ECO7003
Abstract ID:696
Candidate for Awards:None

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