Plant species rarely exhibit both monoecious and dioecious sexual systems. This limits opportunities to investigate the consequences of combined versus separate sex function on mating patterns and genetic variation and the analysis of factors responsible for the evolution and maintenance of the two sexual systems. Populations of the North American clonal aquatic Sagittaria latifolia are usually either monoecious or dioecious and often grow in close geographic proximity. We investigated mating patterns, genetic structure, and relationships between the two sexual systems using allozyme variation in populations from southern Ontario, Canada. As predicted, selfing rates in monoecious populations (n = 6, mean = 0.41) were significantly higher than in dioecious populations (n = 6, mean = 0.11). Moreover, marker-based estimates of inbreeding depression (δ) indicated strong selection against inbred offspring in both monoecious (mean δ = 0.83) and dioecious (mean δ = 0.84) populations. However, the difference in selfing rate between the sexual systems was not reflected in contrasting levels of genetic variation. Our surveys of 12 loci in 15 monoecious and 11 dioecious populations revealed no significant differences in the proportion of polymorphic loci (P), number of alleles per locus (A), or observed and expected heterozygosity (Ho and He, respectively). Strong inbreeding depression favoring survival of outcrossed offspring may act to maintain similar levels of diversity between monoecious and dioecious populations. Despite geographical overlap between the two sexual systems in southern Ontario, a dendrogram of genetic relationships indicated two distinct clusters of populations largely corresponding to monoecious and dioecious populations. Reproductive isolation between monoecious and dioecious populations appears to be governed, in part, by observed differences in habitat and life history. We suggest that selfing and inbreeding depression in monoecious populations are important in the transition from monoecy to dioecy and that the maintenance of distinct sexual systems in S. latifolia is governed by interactions between ecology, life history, and mating.
Corresponding Editor: M. Morgan