Differences in environmental response between the sexes of the dioecious shrub Baccharis halimifolia (Compositae)

Vera Aber Krischik, Robert F. Denno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Baccharis halimifolia (Compositae) is a dioecious shrub which grows on the upland fringe of tidal marshes along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of North America. We examined the responses of the two sexes to variation in nutrient and moisture availability plant density, and defoliation. By growing plants from seedlings to flowering adults under various combinations of soil type, fertilization rate and plant density, we were able to establish different rates of plant growth and mortality. Plants grown at high density and low nutrient and water supply grew the least, incurrent the most mortality and showed a male-biased sex ratio (73% male). At low density with abundant nutrients and water, plants grew more, survived well, flowered frequently, and were female-biased (75% female). Changes in sex ratio were probably the result of sex-related mortality rather than sexual lability of the seedlings. While changes in sex ratio occurred under experimental conditions in the green-house, no evidence for differences in habitat utilization between the sexes were found in the field and the sex ratio (59% female) did not vary across habitats. In the marsh habitats we sampled where water and nutrients were apparently available, there was no evidence for differential mortality between the sexes. When defoliated (75% of leaf tissue), both sexes showed similar reductions in reproductive effort (number of flower heads/shoot). Our results indicate that differences between the sexes of Baccharis in their response to environmental growing conditions is an important ecological factor associated with the separation of male and female function into separate individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-181
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Baccharis halimifolia
  • Dioecy
  • Environmental response
  • Sex ratio


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