Habitat and sex specific differences in the dioecious weed Acetosella vulgaris (Polygonaceae).
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Patterns of resource allocation, numbers of reproductive structures and sex ratios of flowering populations of the dioecious weed Acetosella vulgaris (Fourr.) were examined in the Kosciuszko alpine region of Australia. Specifically, the sex-specific response of ramets was compared between a disturbed alpine habitat, in which weeds such as A. vulgaris are common (disturbed roadside/path-edge), and a native alpine habitat in which weeds appear to have a limited capacity to germinate, grow and reproduce (undisturbed tall alpine herbfield). The disturbed habitat was generally more favourable for growth of A. vulgaris. Ramets of both sexes had greater total and vegetative biomass than ramets in native habitats. Although reproductive biomass was also greater in disturbed habitats, females had less reproductive biomass than males, which was not as predicted. Reproductive effort was not affected by habitat or gender. The disturbed habitat also favoured increased numbers of inflorescences per ramet and flowers per ramet, as expected. Whereas the gender of the ramet also influenced numbers of reproductive structures, again, this was not as predicted. Females had more flowers per ramet and more flowers per inflorescence than males. This may be because of factors associated with wind pollination. Females were taller in native habitats but there was no difference between the sexes in disturbed habitats. Sex ratios varied from all male populations to nearly all female populations among the 25 sites sampled irrespective of habitat. Factors such as time since last disturbance may have contributed to variation in the sex ratios of alpine populations of A. vulgaris in Australia.