Sexual reproduction of the pentaploid, short-styled Oxalis pes-caprae allows the production of viable offspring.
Reproduction is a key factor for the successful establishment and spread of introduced species. Oxalis pes-caprae is a tristylous species with a self- and morph-incompatibility sexual system that, in the invaded range of the western Mediterranean Basin, has been found to reproduce asexually because only the pentaploid, short-styled morph (5x S-morph) was introduced. The objective of this study was to test the ability of the 5x S-morph of O. pes-caprae to produce viable offspring in the absence of compatible mates, exploring the hypothesis that new morphs could have emerged by sexual reproduction events of the initially introduced morph. Pollen germination, pollen tube development, fruit and seed production, seed germination and offspring ploidy levels were analysed after controlled hand-pollinations to assess self- and morph-incompatibility and production of viable gametes by the 5x S-morph. The self-incompatibility system is still operating, but a partial breakdown in the morph-incompatibility system combined with the production of viable gametes was observed, allowing sexual reproduction of the 5x S-morph in the invaded range. The ability of the 5x S-morph to reproduce sexually may have major consequences for the dynamics of invasive populations of O. pes-caprae and could be one of the factors involved in the occurrence of new floral morphs in this invaded range.