Background: So far, little is known in detail about mating systems of woody bamboos. Paternity analysis of offspring improved our understanding of these systems, and contributed to their germplasm conservation and genetic improvement.
Results: In this study, a paternity analysis of offspring from two consecutive mass or sporadically flowering events of Dendrocalamus membranaceus and D. sinicus were conducted to determine their mating system and pollen dispersal using the program COLONY based on simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. Two sporadically flowering populations of D. sinicus (C1, C2) obtained relatively high paternity assignments rates (69.0–71.4%). Meanwhile,among three populations of D. membranaceus, the sporadically flowering population A also had much higher paternity assignments rates (56.4%) than mass flowering populations B1(28.6%) and B2 (42.5%). Both D.membranaceus and D. sinicus had mixed mating systems while their mating patterns were variable depending on pollination conditions. The maximum pollen dispersal distances were 90m and 4378m for D. membranaceus and D.sinicus populations, respectively, and the mating distances of these two species focused on ranges of ca. 0–50 mand 0–1500 m, respectively.
Conclusions: These results revealed for the first time variable mating patterns in woody bamboos. This suggests half-sib seeds from the same bamboo clump may have different male parents and it is crucial to clarify genetic origin in woody bamboos’ breeding programs. The results also indicate the importance of pollinators in the mating systems of tropical woody bamboos.