Considering herbivory, reproduction, and gender when monitoring plants: A case study of Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum [L.] Schott)

Scott Ruhren, Steven N. Handel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Arisaema triphyllum (L.) Schott, Jack-in-the-pulpit, a sequential hermaphrodite, can switch between male and female sex expression through time. Older, larger individuals are more likely to become female, but damage to leaves or storage tissue may prevent future sexual reproduction. Therefore repeated herbivory could indirectly alter sex ratios within populations. In a field study in hardwood forests in New Jersey, we observed lower than expected flower and fruit production by A. triphyllum in a large sample. The energy reserves of the corms within the study populations may have been depleted by chronic herbivory from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmerman), decreasing the likelihood of flower and fruit production. We found that 27.2% of the 3331 monitored A. triphyllum individuals were eaten by white-tailed deer in 1996. Although herbivory by deer declined in 1997 and 1998, long-term effects of repeated overgrazing by deer may result in irreversible losses of plants that fail to reproduce. Therefore, monitoring based only on counting stems may lead to misleading estimates for population-persistence of gender-modifying plants. Similarly, a count of flowers in a predominantly male-biased population is a misleading indicator of reproductive potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-266
Number of pages6
JournalNatural Areas Journal
Volume20
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

Keywords

  • Arisaema triphyllum
  • Deer herbivory
  • Gender modification
  • Herb monitoring protocols
  • Plant reproduction

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