Sexual system variation in the legumes (Fabaceae): prospects for morphological, evolutionary and genomic study

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Quentin Cronk, Leonardo M Borges 


Although the great majority of legume species are cosexual with hemaphrodite flowers, a variety of sexual systems are observed in the family including monoecy, andromonoecy, androdioecy and dioecy. Such broad terms conceal much variation, details that may be of importance in understanding the evolutionary and ecological basis of reproductive systems. This variation is often inadequately described in taxonomic works which, through practical necessity, require brevity. Here we provide an overview of the sexual systems of legumes and propose a simple notation for summarizing sexual variation in the form of an unequivocal formula: the inflorescence formula. We also suggest a protocol for detailed description of sexual variation, which we hope will be useful in guiding future studies of sexual variation in plants. Detailed knowledge of sexual variation at the morpholological level is an important prerequisite for molecular investigation of the evolutionary developmental biology of sex systems. Legumes provide a rich field for future evo-devo investigations in this area.



Biology, Botany, Plant Biology, Plant Breeding and Genetics Life Sciences, Plant Sciences


plant sex, plant gender, Fabaceae, floral formula


Published: 2024-02-01 16:22

Last Updated: 2024-02-01 21:22


CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data and Code Availability Statement:
Data will be available as a supplementary material