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Climate change is affecting when and how violets reproduce

Climate change affects when and how violets reproduce

The common blue pansy, Viola sororia, is native to eastern North America, including Missouri. Blooming in early spring, sometimes into late summer, this wildflower produces blue-violet flowers or white flowers with purple veins. The genus name comes from the Latin name for sweet-smelling flower. The flowers attract butterflies and are mainly pollinated by bees. Credit: Matthew Austin

In many Missouri backyards, a carpet of tiny purple or white pansies is a sure sign of spring.

Research by Matthew Austin, a postdoctoral researcher with the Living Earth Collaborative at Washington University in St. Louis, has found that climate change is impacting the way these common native flowers reproduce.

Violets both reproduce sexually, by cross-pollinating the showy flowers we know; and asexually, by self-sowing less conspicuous flowers that remain hidden near the base of the plant. This is called “mixed mating”. While environmental factors determine how much a plant reproduces sexually or asexually, no study before had looked at the impact of climate change on mixed mating.

Austin and his co-authors studied blue-violet specimens from the Missouri Botanical Garden’s herbarium from 1875 to 2015 in conjunction with temperature and precipitation data to see if blooms correlated with climate.

Among other things, the scientists found that violets produced less showy flowers in environments with warmer temperatures and less rainfall, while violets produced more showy flowers in cooler climates with more rainfall. When temperatures are warm, violets will also bloom earlier in the year.

“It is well documented that climate change affects the time of year when plants flower,” Austin explains. “By finding that climate change is associated with increased production of sexual flowers, compared to asexual flowers, in the common blue violet, this study reveals that climate change may affect not only when plants reproduce, but also how plants reproduce.” .”

The research is published in the American Journal of Botany

Yes, spring flowers bloom earlier – and that can confuse bees

More information:
Matthew W. Austin et al, Climate change is associated with greater attribution to potential outcrossing in a common mixed mating species, American Journal of Botany (2022). DOI: 10.1002/ajb2.16021

Provided by Washington University in St. Louis

Quote: Climate change affects when and how violets reproduce (2022, June 27) retrieved June 27, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-climate-affecting-violets.html

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