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Morphological plasticity in Trifolium repens L.: the effects of clone genotype, soil nutrient level, and the genotype of conspecific neighbours

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 08:08 authored by Michael J Hutchings, Roy Turkington, Elena Klein, Peter Carey
This study investigates the effects on clone morphology when different genotypes of Trifolium repens L. (white clover) are grown together in mixtures. Three genets of T. repens were selected from a field population and grown in a greenhouse partly in isolation and partly in mixture with another T. repens clone, either of the same or of a different genotype, and at two soil nutrient levels. Responses in growth and form were assessed by measuring the following variables: dry mass per quadrat, polygon area, ramet mass, number of nodes, proportion of nodes branching and internode length. Analysis revealed numerous significant main effects of soil nutrient level, as well as identity of own and of neighbour genotype on clone growth and form but did not detect any interactions; this may have been due to the low number of surviving replicates. In response to increasing soil nutrient levels there was (i) an increase in number or size of some of the characters measured and (ii), a change in form of the plant, which affected the placement of daughter ramets. In general, the response of most variables to increased soil nutrients was consistent with the hypothesis that clones consolidate occupation of favourable habitat patches and increase their probability of escape from unfavourable conditions. Clover clones also responded to neighbouring clones in a manner consistent with this hypothesis, increasing the likelihood of growing away from competitors, although the responses were not as pronounced as those induced by soil nutrients. The responses were strongest in fertilized conditions and in the clone with the most guerilla-like growth form. The precise response exhibited by any clone differed according to the genotype of the neighbour encountered. The changes provoked by conspecific neighbours were localized within the parts of the clones encountering the neighbours, rather than spread throughout the whole clone. Key words: plasticity, integration, Trifolium repens, clonal species.


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  • Published


Canadian Journal of Botany




NRC Research Press





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  • Biology and Environmental Science Publications

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  • Yes

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