In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Allocation of Reproductive Resources in Plants

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • History
  • Sexual and Asexual Reproduction
  • Accessory Costs of Reproduction in Seed Plants
  • Quality versus Quantity of Seeds
  • Semelparous and Iteroparous Reproduction

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.

  • American Journal of Botany.

    Founded in 1917, this journal is published by the Botanical Society of America and covers a great range of botanical topics. Often has papers dealing with ecology and reproductive biology of plants.

  • American Naturalist.

    A wide-ranging and venerable journal and a leader in modeling and empirical work on mating systems and evolutionary topics in general.

  • Annals of Botany.

    A general botany journal that frequently publishes short reviews and publishes widely in the area of plant reproductive biology.

  • Ecology.

    One of the top journals publishing ecological and evolutionary ecological work. Published by the Ecological Society of America.

  • Evolution.

    The leading journal of evolutionary biology. Articles cover a wide range of topics, including plant mating systems, evolution of life-history strategies, and theoretical modeling of sex ratios.

  • Evolutionary Ecology.

    One of the leading journals featuring work at the intersection between evolution and ecology. There are frequent articles on plant reproduction although the range of articles is not limited to plants.

  • Heredity.

    Journal devoted to the study of genetics, published by the Genetics Society. This journal often features work dealing with mating systems and reproduction in plants.

  • Journal of Ecology.

    Venerable journal that publishes a variety of papers on plant reproduction, including work on reproductive and vegetative allocation strategies.

  • Oecologia.

    A general ecology journal that publishes work on plant physiology and plant-animal interactions including pollination.

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