Among- and within-population variation in morphology, rewards, and scent in a hawkmoth-pollinated plant

Katherine E. Eisen, Rong Ma, Robert A. Raguso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Premise: Floral scent is a complex trait that mediates many plant–insect interactions, but our understanding of how floral scent variation evolves, either independently or in concert with other traits, remains limited. Assessing variation in floral scent at multiple levels of biological organization and comparing patterns of variation in scent to variation in other floral traits can contribute to our understanding of how scent variation evolves in nature. Methods: We used a greenhouse common garden experiment to investigate variation in floral scent at three scales—within plants, among plants, and among populations—and to determine whether scent, alone or in combination with morphology and rewards, contributes to population differentiation in Oenothera cespitosa subsp. marginata. Its range spans most of the biomes in the western United States, such that variation in both the abiotic and biotic environment could contribute to trait variation. Results: Multiple analytical approaches demonstrated substantial variation among and within populations in compound-specific and total floral scent measures. Overall, populations were differentiated in morphology and reward traits and in scent. Across populations, coupled patterns of variation in linalool, leucine-derived compounds, and hypanthium length are consistent with a long-tongued moth pollination syndrome. Conclusions: The considerable variation in floral scent detected within populations suggests that, similar to other floral traits, variation in floral scent may have a heritable genetic component. Differences in patterns of population differentiation in floral scent and in morphology and rewards indicate that these traits may be shaped by different selective pressures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1794-1810
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number11
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Evolutionary Biology

Free keywords

  • floral traits
  • floral volatiles
  • genetic variation
  • intraspecific variation
  • nectar
  • Onagraceae
  • plant–pollinator interactions


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