I seem to recall from either reading or lecture that there have been instances of trees that are self-incompatible accumulating enough mutations in an axillary bud that the resulting branch was able to pollinate flowers on other parts of the tree. Unfortunately, I do not have a source for this information.

Are there recorded instances of this happening, or is this a figment of my fevered brain?

  • $\begingroup$ You may be remembering the line of work since reviewed here: nature.com/articles/hdy2013114 (Scofield DG. 2013. A definitive demonstration of fitness effects due to somatic mutation in a plant. Heredity 112:361–362.) Maybe you can clarify the question further, as well, if you are still interested one decade after the op? $\endgroup$ Sep 30, 2023 at 22:34

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Recently, samples from different parts of cottonwood trees have been sequenced (Nature News). The conclusion:

“The variation within a tree is as great as the variation across unrelated trees,” says Ken Paige, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who led the team that made the discovery.

This doesn't say anything about overcoming self-incompatibility, and it probably depends on the mechanism of self-incompatibility if it can be overcome by accumulating mutations.

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    $\begingroup$ Going through my old Botany textbooks. It would appear that for at least one mechanism for self-incompatability, it would require between one and three de novo mutations. Perhaps for some mechanisms it would be more likely, and perhaps someone has come across this in the wild, but for now this works for me. :) $\endgroup$
    – S. Albano
    Oct 18, 2012 at 4:54

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