Sporophyte production and female fertility were investigated in seventeen calcareous grassland demes of the moss Homalothecium lutescens (Hedw.) H.Rob. on the Baltic island of Öland, with the aim of understanding the relationships between sexual reproduction, habitat age, genetic variation and factors related to growth conditions. The overall proportion of fertile female shoots (with perichaetia) was 35%. Fertility status at the level of individual shoots was positively associated with shoot length and density, while within deme fertility was positively associated with bush cover. There was no association between female fertility and habitat age, genetic diversity (HS) or allelic richness. Out of 1344 investigated shoots, only two were normal-sized fertile males. Dwarf males were also extremely rare, and found almost exclusively on shoots with sporophytes. Few sporophytes were observed (in the two demes with highest fertility and bush cover). No relationship between genetic variation and the frequency of sporophytes and males was found. The lack of a relationship between sexual reproduction and genetic variation suggests that sexual reproduction may not occur in the same grassland fragments as the recruitment of new clones (from spores or vegetative fragments). The majority of the dry, open grassland habitats, where H. lutescens is typically found in the study area, appear to be suboptimal for both dwarf males and fertilization. Sexual reproduction is more likely to occur in shaded (although grazed) grassland patches, where moisture levels are likely to be higher and the moss colonies are generally more vigorous.
Genetic variation and sexual reproduction in a moss with dwarf males, Homalothecium lutescens