Two edaphic races of Lasthenia californica sensu Ornduff (races A and C) grow in parapatry on a serpentine outcrop at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, California. The races occupy distinct edaphic habitats that have different water‐holding capacities. We predict that the two races will show differentiation in reproductive strategies related to their response to water stress. In order to test this hypothesis, we performed a greenhouse experiment to characterize the reaction norms of the two races exposed to a gradient in water availability. We measured the response of five variables to the watering treatments: early survivorship, days to flowering, root/shoot dry mass ratio, total dry mass, and a measure of reproductive fitness, number of flower heads. We found that the races differ in their allocation patterns to roots compared with shoots and in days to flowering, indicating genetic differentiation for these traits. Race A consistently allocates relatively more biomass to roots while race C flowers earlier. However, the reaction norms of the two races for all nonreproductive traits are parallel, indicating that races do not differ in their plastic response to drought stress. The number of flower heads, our measure of reproductive fitness, did, however, exhibit differential response to water availability between the two races. Under low watering treatment, race C plants are able to maintain flower head production, while race A plants show a monotonic decrease in head production as water stress increases. Results indicate that race C plants are better adapted to drought; they are able to maintain a high reproductive output under low water availability. However, as the phenotype of race A is affected by drought, reproductive output decreases, as we would predict for plants that rarely experience drought in their natural environment.



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NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Nishanta Rajakaruna was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly. The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/368395.

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