The ecology, evolution, and genetics of plant reproductive systems

The study of plant reproductive systems provides crucial insights into ecological interactions and the process of evolutionary change. Reproductive success is closely allied to overall fitness, and understanding the mechanisms and drivers of reproductive fitness can help us understand the causes and consequences of the remarkable diversity of plant reproductive strategies.

This special issue of New Phytologist explores the ecology, evolution and genetics of plant reproductive systems, a highly interdisciplinary area of research that has been championed and developed by Prof. Spencer Barrett. The collection has its origins in a symposium held in August 2018 to mark Prof. Barrett’s retirement from the University of Toronto after 40 years. The symposium brought together leaders in the field to celebrate Prof. Barrett’s outstanding career, and share new insights and views on the topic of plant reproduction. The New Phytologist Trust was delighted to support the symposium alongside the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto, and to publish the landmark collection of articles that resulted from it.

Flowers of tristylous Eichornia paniculata from a population near Murici in N.E. Brazil. The plant is a selfing variant of the mid-styled morph. Image courtesy of Spencer C. H. Barrett.

The collection includes a total of 35 articles that cover new research, review and commentary, integrating the theory, ecology, natural history, evolution, genetics and genomics of plant reproductive systems. This includes new modelling work by Madeline Peters and Art Weis (University of Toronto) exploring the combined effects of flowering time and spatial isolation in structuring genetic diversity, a Viewpoint article by Melinda Pickup (IST Vienna) and colleagues on the role of mating system differences in the outcome of hybridization, and the use of nanotechnology to study reproductive isolation by Corneile Minnaar in Bruce Anderson’s group at Stellenosch University. The special issue also features a new Tansley review by Prof. Barrett that explores recent advances on the floral polymorphism heterostyly and highlights some unresolved questions.

Spencer Barrett
Spencer Barrett

This collection of studies serves not only as a tribute to Prof. Barrett, but also as a rallying call for future researchers to focus their attention on the questions that remain unanswered and the research avenues that are yet to be fully explored.

Sarah Lennon (
Executive Editor
New Phytologist Trust

About the New Phytologist Trust

The New Phytologist Trust is a UK-based not-for-profit organisation committed to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and research in plant science. The Trust currently fulfils this objective by publishing the scholarly journal New Phytologist and by funding a wide range of activities, such as the international New Phytologist Symposia and Workshop series, awarding grants, and the sponsorship of various awards for early career researchers, including the Tansley Medal, named after the journal’s founder, Sir Arthur Tansley.