Tiller organization within the tussock grass Schizachyrium scoparium: a field assessment of competition-cooperation tradeoffs Academic Article uri icon


  • Tussock grasses are characterized by a compact spatial arrangement of tillers that contributes to intense intratussock competition. This investigation was designed to directly assess the magnitude of competition among autonomous subunits of tillers within individual tussocks (i.e., integrated physiological units) to further define the mechanisms of tiller organization within this successful growth form. Experimentally constructed tussocks of Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx. Nash) were grown in the field in central Texas, USA, for 2years with 1, 4, 8, or 12 autonomous subunits to span the range observed in naturally occurring local populations. Increasing numbers of subunits per tussock did not affect tiller density or the mean mass of individual vegetative or reproductive tillers, but it did intensify intratussock competition as evidenced by a large reduction in total tiller mass and number per subunit. This pattern of tiller organization is indicative of a division of labor within the tussock that is manifested as a tradeoff between competition among autonomous subunits and cooperation among tillers within these physiologically integrated subunits. We conclude that an increasing number of autonomous subunits associated with tussock basal expansion contributes to coarse-scale resource preemption and competitive ability, while resource sharing among tillers within subunits supports new tiller establishment and growth within this highly competitive microenvironment.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Derner, J. D., Briske, D. D., & Polley, H. W.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Derner, Justin D||Briske, David D||Polley, H Wayne

publication date

  • August 2012

published in