Clonal reproduction is a common feature in tropical herbaceous plants and has been shown to be important for recruitment and population maintenance. Although numerous phenological responses (i.e., leaf flushing, flowering, and fruit maturation) have been shown to be associated with seasonality in the tropics, little is known about the relationship between seasonality and levels of clonal reproduction. I examined the temporal and spatial variation in clonal reproduction and its potential trade-off with growth and survival for a tropical understory herb, Aechmea magdalenae (André) André ex Baker, Handb. Bromel (Bromeliaceae). I addressed the following questions: (1) how do vegetative growth, survival, and clonal reproduction (i.e., rhizome and ramet production) vary between seasons and between years?; (2) how do these factors differ among populations?; and (3) do simulated dry and wet season light levels cause similar variation in rosette survival and vegetative and clonal reproduction, as found in natural populations? Rhizome and ramet production in A. magdalenae was found to be highly influenced by seasonality. During the transition from dry to wet season, there was a significant decrease in survival and a significant increase in clonal reproduction, and rosettes tended to grow at a slower rate. Rosettes in the location with the longest dry season had significantly lower survival, higher clonal reproduction, and a slower growth rate. Clonal reproduction also started at smaller rosette sizes in the most seasonal forest. When light levels were manipulated, rhizome and ramet production were significantly greater under the high light conditions, and rosette growth (change in longest leaf length) was significantly lower. Results from this study suggest that A. magdalenae responds to higher light levels by shifting investment from vegetative growth to clonal reproduction. Possible implications of this response to light for population demography are discussed.
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Vol. 33 • No. 1