Reproductive trade-offs maintain bract color polymorphism in Scarlet Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea)

Eun Sun Kim, David N. Zaya, Jeremie B. Fant, Mary V. Ashley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Populations of scarlet Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) in the Midwestern United States exhibit a bract color polymorphism, with each population having predominantly yellow or scarlet bracts. We investigated a possible mechanism for this maintenance of bract color polymorphism in C. coccinea by conducting hand-pollination experiments in two nearby populations, one predominantly yellow and one predominantly scarlet. The hand-pollination treatments were either self-pollination or cross pollination using pollen from within and between populations. Both color morphs were used as pollen donors for the within and between crosses. We found that both color morphs of C. coccinea were self-compatible. When the scarlet morph was the maternal plant it had higher seed set. When pollinators were excluded, the yellow morph outperformed the scarlet morph in fruit set and seed set. The apparent trade-offs between a higher reproductive output in the scarlet morph and a reproductive assurance advantage in the yellow morph may explain the maintenance of the polymorphism in C. coccinea. While many previous studies have provided evidence for pollinator preference playing a role in floral color polymorphism, the results of the current study indicate that reproductive assurance, which would be important for fluctuations in pollinator abundance or colonizing new areas, may act as a selective agent to maintain such polymorphisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0209176
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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