There is growing evidence that many self‐compatible plants control the level of self‐fertilization with postpollination processes that give a siring advantage to cross pollen over self pollen through “cryptic self‐incompatibility” (CSI). Previous marker‐gene experiments with self‐compatible, tristylous Decodon verticillatus (Lythraceae) have demonstrated a siring advantage to cross pollen, though the extent to which this advantage results from prezygotic discrimination vs. early acting inbreeding depression is not clear. Here, we provide evidence that prezygotic mechanisms are involved in this siring advantage by comparing pollen tube numbers at various times following cross‐ and self‐pollination conducted in a natural population. In the 24 h following pollination, cross pollen yielded almost twice as many pollen tubes at various positions in the style compared to self pollen. After 36 and 48 h, the difference between pollen types had disappeared, suggesting that the advantage to cross pollen results from differences in the rate of pollen germination and/or tube growth rather than pollen tube attrition. Comparison of tube numbers after legitimate vs. illegitimate cross‐pollination did not reveal any difference, suggesting that D. verticillatus possesses CSI unrelated to heteromorphic self‐ and intramorph‐incompatibility found in other heterostylous members of the Lythraceae. CSI resulting from differential pollen tube growth may minimize geitonogamous selfing when cross pollen is abundant, while maximizing fecundity when cross pollen is scarce due to local clonal spread.
Plants randomly selected from the population and flowering branches on each were bagged with bridal veils