Intensity and mode of Lindera melissifolia reproduction are affected by flooding and light availability
We studied the impact of flooding and light availability gradients on sexual and asexual reproduction in Lindera melissifolia (Walt.) Blume, an endangered shrub found in floodplain forests of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV), USA. A water impoundment facility was used to control the duration of soil flooding (0, 45, or 90 days), and shade houses were used to control light availability (high = 72%, intermediate = 33%, or low = 2% of ambient light) received by L. melissifolia established on native soil of the MAV. Sexual reproductive intensity, as measured by inflorescence bud count, fruit set, and drupe production, was greatest in the absence of soil flooding. Ninety days of soil flooding in the year prior to anthesis decreased inflorescence bud counts, and 45 days of soil flooding in the year of anthesis lessened fruit set and drupe production. Inflorescence bud development was the greatest in environments of intermediate light, decreased in high-light environments, and was absent in low light environments. But low fruit set diminished drupe production in intermediate light environments as compared to high light environments. Asexual reproduction, as measured by development of new ramets, was greatest in the absence of soil flooding and where plants were grown in high or intermediate light. Plants exhibited plasticity in reproductive mode such that soil flooding increased the relative importance of asexual reproduction. The high light environment was most favorable to sexual reproduction, and reproductive mode transitioned to exclusively asexual in the low light environment. Our results raise several implications important to active management for the conservation of this imperiled plant.