Flower Colour Polymorphism, Pollination Modes, Breeding System and Gene Flow in Anemone coronaria

Plants (Basel). 2020 Mar 23;9(3):397. doi: 10.3390/plants9030397.


The flower colour of Anemone coronaria (Ranunculaceae) is a genetically inherited trait. Such intra-specific flower colour polymorphism might be driven by pollinators, other non-pollinating agents, or by abiotic factors. We investigated the genetic relations among red, white and purple-blue flower colour morphs growing in 10 populations of A. coronaria in Israel, in relation to their breeding system, pollination modes, differential perception by bees and visitors' behaviour. Flowers of these three morphs differed in their reflectance that could be perceived by bees. Honeybees, solitary bees and flies demonstrated only partial preferences for the different colour morphs. No spontaneous self-pollination was found; however, fruit set under nets, excluding insects but allowing wind pollination, was not significantly lower than that of natural free pollinated flowers, indicating a potential role of wind pollination. Anemone coronaria flowers were visited by various insects, honeybees and Andrena sp. preferred the white and purple-blue morphs, while the syrphid flies preferred the white flowers. Thus, visitor behaviour can only partially explain the evolution or maintenance of the colour polymorphism. No significant genetic differences were found among the populations or colour morphs. Wind pollination, causing random gene flow, may explain why no significant genetic divergence was found among all studied populations and their colour morphs. The existence of monomorphic red populations, along other polymorphic populations, might be explained by linked resistance to aridity and/or grazing.

Keywords: Anemone coronaria L.; bees; flies; flower colour polymorphism; pollination; population genetics.