Sexual dimorphism in the dioecious monocot Lomandra leucocephala ssp. Robusta and its potential ecosystem and conservation significance.
Dioecious plants constitute 7% of all angiosperm species, yet they occur in many habitat types, partially through the deployment of sexual dimorphisms that assist in reproduction. In the present work, the dioecious monocot Lomandra leucocephala ssp. robusta (Asparagaceae: Lomandroideae) was studied to understand how sexual dimorphisms can assist species conservation and inform us of a species' potential significance in an ecosystem. Floral display was sexually dimorphic, as male inflorescences were displayed more prominently and more conspicuously in UV range. Male nectar analysed by thin-layer chromatography contained a higher glucose content than female nectar. However, both sexes contained hexose-rich nectar, a common indicator of generalist pollination, which was supported by observations of floral visitors. Floral extract comparison conducted via gas chromatography-mass spectrometry showed that male extracts contained more compounds that potentially convey greater resistance to biotic and abiotic threats. Chemical comparison of leaves by high performance liquid chromatography with peak area ratio analysis revealed this technique could be used as a tool for gender identification of individuals during non-flowering periods. Due to the generalist pollination mechanisms of L. leucocephala ssp. robusta, may have an important role in the conservation and support of local insect populations. The presence of chemical biotic and abiotic resistance may also make L. leucocephala ssp. robusta a significant contributor to the ongoing stabilisation of the sand dunes. Conservation efforts required for L. leucocephala ssp. robusta are likely to be minimal, as pollination services are provided by a diversity of pollinating taxa, including introduced species, which will be abundant regardless of variable flowering periods. Further observational study of L. leucocephala ssp. robusta pollinators and differences in pollinator visitation behaviours between sexes is recommended to better understand efficient pollination for the species, and potentially reveal a greater extent of ecosystem benefit for this species.