The maleness of larger angiosperm flowers

Gustavo Brant Paterno*, Carina Lima Silveira, Johannes Kollmann, Mark Westoby, Carlos Roberto Fonseca

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    24 Citations (Scopus)


    Flower biomass varies widely across the angiosperms. Each plant species invests a given amount of biomass to construct its sex organs. A comparative understanding of how this limited resource is partitioned among primary (male and female structures) and secondary (petals and sepals) sexual organs on hermaphrodite species can shed light on general evolutionary processes behind flower evolution. Here, we use allometries relating different flower biomass components across species to test the existence of broad allocation patterns across the angiosperms. Based on a global dataset with flower biomass spanning five orders of magnitude, we show that heavier angiosperm flowers tend to be male-biased and invest strongly in petals to promote pollen export, while lighter flowers tend to be female-biased and invest more in sepals to insure their own seed set. This result demonstrates that larger flowers are not simple carbon copies of small ones, indicating that sexual selection via male-male competition is an important driver of flower biomass evolution and sex allocation strategies across angiosperms.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)10921-10926
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number20
    Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2020


    • Allometry
    • Flower evolution
    • Male-male competition
    • Outcrossing
    • Sexual selection


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