Functional associations of floret and inflorescence traits among grass species

Jannice Friedman, Lawrence D. Harder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The aerodynamics of wind pollination selects for an intimate relation between form and function in anemophilous plants. Inflorescence architecture and floral morphology vary extensively within the Poaceae, but the functional implication of this variation remains largely unknown. Here we quantify associations between floret, culm, and inflorescence characteristics for 25 grass species in Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada, and consider whether different architectures may implement unique mechanisms to aid pollination. The species cluster into four categories defined by all combinations of floret size (small vs. large) and inflorescence architecture (compact vs. diffuse). Species differed significantly for all 18 traits that we measured, with 12 traits differing only between floret-size classes, three differing only between inflorescence types, and three differing among both (independently or by an interaction). Based on these morphological associations, we discuss the aerodynamic and functional consequences of each category for wind pollination. The independence of inflorescence and floral traits has probably allowed exploration of all possible combinations of inflorescence architecture and floret size during the evolution of the Poaceae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1862-1870
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerodynamics
  • Floret size
  • Inflorescence architecture
  • Poaceae
  • Pollen dispersal
  • Wind pollination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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