Senescence is a puzzling phenomenon. Few convincing studies of senescence in perennial herbaceous plants exist. While ramets are known to senesce, whether senescence of bunchgrasses actually occurs is not clear. In this study, we grew a set of plants of Elymus excelsus, a bunchgrass, to examine plant size, sexual reproduction and bud formation in individual plants in relation to their gradual ageing, in order to determine whether E. excelsus experiences senescence. We collected data in two consecutive years (2009 and 2010) from field samples of plants from 1 to 5 years old. Using regression models, we performed age-related analyses of growth and reproduction parameters. Our results showed that individual plant size (diameter, individual biomass), total biomass of ramets, number and biomass of reproductive ramets, percentage of ramets that were reproductive, reproductive allocation, over-wintering buds and juvenile ramets all declined with age. However, vegetative growth (number and biomass of vegetative ramets) did not decrease with age. Those plants that survived, dwindled in size as they aged. However, no plants shifted their resource allocation between growth and reproduction as they aged, so the shift in allocation did not account for the fall in size.
Keywords: Ageing; bud; reproductive allocation; sexual reproduction; vegetative propagation.
© 2018 German Society for Plant Sciences and The Royal Botanical Society of the Netherlands.