Spatial Patterns and Drivers of Angiosperm Sexual Systems in China Differ Between Woody and Herbaceous Species

Yunyun Wang, Tong Lyu, Ao Luo, Yaoqi Li, Yunpeng Liu, Robert P. Freckleton, Shuguang Liu, Zhiheng Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Plant sexual systems play an important role in the evolution of angiosperm diversity. However, large-scale patterns in the frequencies of sexual systems (i.e. dioecy, monoecy, and hermaphroditism) and their drivers for species with different growth forms remain poorly known. Here, using a newly compiled database on the sexual systems and distributions of 19780 angiosperm species in China, we map the large-scale geographical patterns in frequencies of the sexual systems of woody and herbaceous species separately. We use these data to test the following two hypotheses: (1) the prevalence of sexual systems differs between woody and herbaceous assemblies because woody plants have taller canopies and are found in warm and humid climates; (2) the relative contributions of different drivers (specifically climate, evolutionary age, and mature plant height) to these patterns differ between woody and herbaceous species. We show that geographical patterns in proportions of different sexual systems (especially dioecy) differ between woody and herbaceous species. Geographical variations in sexual systems of woody species were influenced by climate, evolutionary age and plant height. In contrast, these have only weakly significant effects on the patterns of sexual systems of herbaceous species. We suggest that differences between species with woody and herbaceous growth forms in terms of biogeographic patterns of sexual systems, and their drivers, may reflect their differences in physiological and ecological adaptions, as well as the coevolution of sexual system with vegetative traits in response to environmental changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1222
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • angiosperms
  • climate change
  • geographical pattern
  • growth form
  • macro evo-devo
  • plant height
  • sexual systems

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