Ecology Allocation of Reproductive Resources in Plants
Andrew C. McCall
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0110


Plants, like other organisms, have a limited lifespan and limited resources to allocate during the time in which they grow and reproduce. Because plants are usually sessile and often very plastic in their growth and reproductive habits, they were ideal for studying variation in reproductive allocation during the formative years of research. The first studies were mostly descriptive in nature, and it was not until Darwin’s work that researchers had a framework to explain how resources could be allocated to maximize reproductive output. After the Modern Synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s, many biologists attempted to both define reproductive allocation and to predict what it should look like in different environments. Some of this work resulted in theories of life history evolution that continue to provoke new questions well into the 21st century. More modern research has both elaborated on these models and found empirical data to test them in the field. With the explosion in molecular biology, research is now also focused on the fine control of sex allocation and how these mechanisms are distributed across genomes. Reproductive allocation generally also includes the balance of resources between vegetative and reproductive structures, but this bibliography will focus on the relationships among reproductive structures themselves.


There are many journals in both the ecological and evolutionary fields that publish works on plant reproductive allocation. Of the ecological journals, some of the most pertinent are Ecology, Oecologia, and Journal of Ecology. Because the subject deals with both proximate ecological factors of how the environment affects reproduction and how ultimate evolutionary factors shape traits related to reproduction, a rich literature is also found in general botanical journals, such as the American Journal of Botany and Annals of Botany. Researchers have long been interested in the problems inherent in understanding how resources should be allocated to sexual and vegetative reproduction, but the work has moved beyond the descriptive studies of the early years to more formal theoretical treatments of the evolutionary processes involved. Accordingly, one can find work in this field in leading evolutionary biology journals such as the American Naturalist, Evolution, Evolutionary Ecology, and Heredity.

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