Autonomous self-fertilization in Linum sulcatum, a native annual with a previously unknown mating system

Matthew R. Jahnke, Julie R Etterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mating systems of wild plant populations have profound effects on their genetic structure and evolution, yet remain unknown or incompletely described for many species. One such species, the herbaceous native annual Linum sulcatum Riddell (Linaceae), is thought to be self-compatible, but there has been no experimental evidence to date to support this claim. To assess the breeding system of this species, seeds were collected from wild populations and reared in a controlled environment. Floral manipulations and controlled pollinations were conducted to determine the degree of self-compatibility of this species and to distinguish between autonomous and facilitated modes of selfing. Additional controlled within- and between-population crosses were conducted to determine the relative degree to which this species can outcross. This study showed that self-fertilization was highly successful and can occur autonomously. In contrast, outcrossing success, both within and between populations, was very limited, suggesting this species may exhibit an extreme degree of cross-incompatibility. A pollen tube growth experiment showed that self-pollination resulted in the formation of more pollen tubes relative to cross-pollination and that complete pollen tube growth can occur less than 2 h following self-pollination. This information is relevant to the future persistence of this species, as much of its remaining habitat is distributed among small, highly fragmented patches subjected to current and future environmental stressors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-67
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Plant Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 25 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements The authors thank Andrew Olufson for assistance with pollen tube staining, Bryan Bandli for assistance with confocal microscopy, and Sonja Smerud for assistance with the map. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation grant DEB-1142784 to JRE.


  • Linum sulcatum mating system
  • Pollen tube
  • Self-fertilization

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