Plasticity to canopy shade in a monocarpic herb: Within- and between-generation effects

Laura F. Galloway, Julie R. Etterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Plants exhibit plasticity in response to their current environment and, in some cases, to that of the previous generation (i.e. maternal effects). However, few studies have evaluated both within- and between-generation plasticities and the extent to which they interact to influence fitness, especially in natural environments. • The plasticity of adult traits to two generations of natural differences in light was determined for Campanulastrum americanum, a forest-edge herb that expresses annual and biennial life histories. • Plasticity was found to an individual's light environment (within generation) and the maternal light environment (between generations). Responses to ambient light for size traits and timing of flowering were probably passive, whereas apparently adaptive responses were found for light acquisition traits. Maternal light influenced the expression of most adult traits but had the strongest effect when plants were germinated in natural environments. • The transgenerational effects of light were consistent with adaptive plasticity for several traits. Plastic within-generation changes in flowering time may also result in adaptive between-generation effects by altering the offspring life history schedule. Finally, the results underscore the importance of conducting studies of within- and between-generation plasticity in natural populations, where the environmental context is relevant to that in which the traits evolved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1003-1012
Number of pages10
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • Flowering time
  • Maternal effects
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Shade-avoidance response
  • Transgenerational plasticity


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