Intraspecific seasonal variation of flowering synchronization in a heterodichogamous tree

Noemi Tel-Zur, Tamar Keasar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Heterodichogamous reproduction in plants involves two flowering morphs, reciprocal in their timing of male and female sexual functions. The degree of synchrony in floral sex phase, within and between individuals of each morph, determines the flowers’ potential fertilization partners. Complete within-morph synchrony enables across-morph mating alone, whereas unsynchronized floral sex phases may allow fertilization within a plant individual (geitonogamy) or within a morph. We documented the disruption of flowering synchrony in the heterodichogamous Ziziphus spina-christi towards the end of its seven-month flowering season. This desert tree has self-incompatible, protandrous, short-lived (2-day) flowers that open before dawn (‘Early’ morph) or around noon (‘Late’ morph). We counted flowers in the male and female phase on flowering branches that were sampled monthly during the 2016–2018 flowering seasons. In 2018, we also tagged flowers and followed their sex-phase distributions over two days at the start, middle, and end of the season. The switch to the female phase was delayed at the end-season (November-December), and 74% of the flowers did not develop beyond their male phase. Differences in male-phase duration resulted in asynchrony among flowers within each tree and among trees of both flowering morphs. Consequently, fertilization between trees of the same morph becomes potentially possible during the end-season. In controlled hand-pollination assays, some within-morph fertilizations set fruit. The end-season breakdown of synchronous flowering generates variability within morphs and populations. We suggest that this variability may potentially enable new mating combinations in a population and enhance its genetic diversity.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1509
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Dichogamy
  • Flowering rhythm
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Synchrony disruption
  • Ziziphus spina-christi

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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