Sexual vs. vegetative reproduction in relation to forest dynamics in the understorey shrub, Hydrangea paniculata (Saxifragaceae)

Hiroshi Kanno, Kenji Seiwa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


In the forest understorey, shrubs usually reproduce vegetatively rather than sexually, but the relative contribution of these two reproductive modes may vary with temporal changes in environmental conditions (e.g., light, substrates of forest floor) that are closely related to forest dynamics. To evaluate the occasional changes in reproductive modes of the clonal understorey shrub Hydrangea paniculata, the reproductive characteristics (i.e., flowering, seedling establishment, vegetative propagation, reproductive size and age) were investigated in four different developmental stages in a Japanese beech forest (early gap, EG; late gap, LG; building, BU; mature, MA). Flowering individuals occurred only in EG and LG, and a much greater number of seedlings was observed in both EG and LG than in BU and MA, mainly because canopy gaps provided sufficient light for flowering and suitable substrates (fallen trees and exposed mineral-soil) for seedling establishment. The flowering individuals originated from plants that had persisted in the shaded understorey until gap formation. In contrast to sexual reproduction, clonal fragmentation increased with forest development in the order LG, EG, BU, MA. This is because, in later stages of forest dynamics (BU and MA), large individuals, some of which had previously flowered in gap stages, were layered on the forest floor and subsequently produced a substantial number of clonal fragments by separation of the buried branches from the main stems which had decayed. This resulted in a large number of clonal fragments originating from a single mother plant. These results suggest that the reproductive modes of H. paniculata is strongly influenced by the changes in environmental conditions with respect to the dynamics of canopy trees. Reproduction from seed in gap stages, despite their short period, provide new genets in established populations, whereas vegetative propagation via fragmentation in closed-canopy stages enhance the stability of the population until the next disturbance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-53
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004 Apr 20


  • Clonal fragmentation
  • Gap
  • Japanese beech forests
  • Persistence
  • Reproductive modes
  • Seedling recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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