The flower is the hallmark of angiosperms and its evolution is key to their diversification. As knowledge of ecological interactions between flowers and their microbial communities (the anthosphere) expands, it becomes increasingly important to consider the evolutionary impacts of these associations and their potential eco‐evolutionary dynamics. In this Viewpoint we synthesize current knowledge of the anthosphere within a multilevel selection framework and illustrate the potential for the extended floral phenotype (the phenotype expressed from the genes of the plant and its associated flower microbes) to evolve. We argue that flower microbes are an important, but understudied, axis of variation that shape floral trait evolution and angiosperm reproductive ecology. We highlight knowledge gaps and discuss approaches that are critical for gaining a deeper understanding of the role microbes play in mediating plant reproduction, ecology, and evolution.

Document Type




Rights Information

© 2019 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Publication Date


Journal Title

New Phytologist