In distylous, self‐incompatible plants, clonal propagation, unbalanced floral morph frequencies, and reduced population size can interfere with the functioning of distyly by compromising legitimate intermorph pollinations, resulting in reduced reproductive output. Here, we examined the mating system and the impact of mate availability, population size, and spatial aggregation of morphs on reproductive output in the distylous, clonal, aquatic plant Hottonia palustris. Controlled pollinations unde
r greenhouse conditions detected no spontaneous selfing without the action of a pollen vector (autonomous autogamy) and demonstrated very low fruit and seed development after self‐pollination. Intermorph (legitimate) crossings resulted in high reproductive output in both floral morphs (long‐ and short‐styled individuals), whereas intramorph (illegitimate) crossings decreased fruit and seed development by more than 50%, indicating that the species has partial intramorph‐incompatibility. In natural populations, small population size and increasing deviation of floral morph frequencies negatively affected reproductive outcome. Individuals of the majority morph type developed significantly fewer fruit and seeds than individuals of the minority morph type. This rapid decline in fecundity was symmetrical, indicating that regardless of which morph was in the majority, the same patterns of negative frequency‐dependent mating occurred. Increasing spatial isolation between compatible morphs significantly reduced fruit and seed set in both morphs similarly. This study provides clear indications of frequency‐ and context‐dependent mating in natural populations of a distylous plant species.
Premise of the study: In animal-pollinated plants, autonomous selfing may provide reproductive assurance when pollinators or reproductive partners are limited. Under such circumstances, the contribution of pollinator-mediated seed set to total seed production also may be more variable compared with situations in which pollinator abundances are high or populations consist of large numbers of individuals. Despite the widespread acceptance of the reproductive assurance hypothesis, only limited empi
rical evidence exists that autonomous selfing confers reproductive output and guarantees constant seed set under variable pollination environments. Methods: We performed emasculation experiments in 22 populations of the short-lived, monocarpic plant Centaurium erythraea in a fragmented dune landscape. Key results: Floral emasculations resulted in a significantly lower seed set compared with that of intact flowers. Seed set in emasculated flowers also declined significantly with decreasing population size and pollinator availability, whereas seed set of intact flowers did not depend on population size nor on pollinator availability. Variability in seed set among individuals was significantly lower in intact than in emasculated flowers and decreased significantly with increasing population size when flowers were emasculated but not in intact flowers. Conclusions: These results indicate that pollinator-mediated seed set is strongly dependent both on population size and on pollinator availability but that reproductive assurance through autonomous selfing guarantees relatively constant levels of total seed production, even when populations are small and/or pollinator limited. High variation in seed set of emasculated flowers suggests strong unpredictability in pollinator services in small populations.
Herbivores can have strong deleterious effects on plant growth, reproduction, and even survival. Because these effects might be strongly interrelated, the direct consumptive effects of herbivores and a variety of indirect effects are difficult to untangle. Reductions in growth, for example, may strongly impact the flowering behaviour of plant species in the current season, but at the same time incur costs to survival, growth and reproduction in the next growing season(s). To get better insights
in the effects of herbivory on the flowering behaviour of the long-lived polycarpic grassland herb Primula veris L., flowering patterns were monitored over ten consecutive years under two treatments (grazing and control mowing regimes). We tested the hypothesis that the size at flowering was affected by the presence of herbivores, and whether this translated into costs to future reproduction and survival. Overall, grazed plants were significantly smaller than control plants, and the size at which plants flowered was also significantly smaller when herbivores were present. The transition probability of flowering and of surviving into the next year was significantly smaller for all plants in the current year if they had been grazed than if they had been mown, indicating that herbivory incurred costs to both flowering and survival. Grazed plants also needed longer to start flowering, had fewer flowers and flowered less frequently, causing a significantly lower proportion of flowering adults in the population. These results suggest that the observed regression in plant size due to herbivory does not allow plants to capture enough resources to guarantee regular flowering in the longer run.
Background and AimsReproductive assurance through autonomous selfing is thought to be one of the main advantages of self-fertilization in plants. Floral mechanisms that ensure autonomous seed set are therefore more likely to occur in species that grow in habitats where pollination is scarce and/or unpredictable.MethodsEmasculation and pollen supplementation experiments were conducted under laboratory conditions to investigate the capacity for, and timing of autonomous selfing in three closely re
lated Centaurium species (Centaurium erythraea, C. littorale and C. pulchellum). In addition, observations of flower visitors were combined with emasculation and pollen addition experiments in natural populations to investigate the degree of pollinator limitation and pollination failure and to assess the extent to which autonomous selfing conferred reproductive assurance.ResultsAll three species were capable of autonomous selfing, although this capacity differed significantly between species (index of autonomous selfing 0·55 ± 0·06, 0·68 ± 0·09 and 0·92 ± 0·03 for C. erythraea, C. littorale and C. pulchellum, respectively). The efficiency and timing of autogamous selfing was primarily associated with differences in the degree of herkogamy and dichogamy. The number of floral visitors showed significant interspecific differences, with 1·6 ± 0·6, 5·4 ± 0·6 and 14·5 ± 2·1 floral visitors within a 2 × 2 m2 plot per 20-min observation period, for C. pulchellum, C. littorale and C. erythraea, respectively. Concomitantly, pollinator failure was highest in C. pulchellum and lowest in C. erythraea. Nonetheless, all three study species showed very low levels of pollen limitation (index of pollen limitation 0·14 ± 0·03, 0·11 ± 0·03 and 0·09 ± 0·02 for C. erythraea, C. littorale and C. pulchellum, respectively), indicating that autonomous selfing may guarantee reproductive assurance.ConclusionsThese findings show that limited availability of pollinators may select for floral traits and plant mating strategies that lead to a system of reproductive assurance via autonomous selfing.
Background and AimsThe maintenance of species boundaries in sympatric populations of closely related species requires some kind of reproductive isolation that limits gene flow among species and/or prevents the production of viable progeny. Because in orchids mycorrhizal fungi are needed for seed germination and subsequent seedling establishment, orchid–mycorrhizal associations may be involved in acting as a post-mating barrier.MethodsWe investigated the strength of post-mating barriers up to the
seed germination stage acting between three closely related Orchis species (Orchis anthropophora, O. militaris and O. purpurea) and studied the role of mycorrhizal fungi in hybridization by burying seed packets of pure and hybrid seeds. After retrieval and assessment of seed germination, the fungi associating with protocorms originating from hybrid and pure seeds were determined and compared with those associating with adult individuals using DNA array technology.ResultsWhereas pre-zygotic post-mating barriers were rather weak in most crosses, post-zygotic post-mating barriers were stronger, particularly when O. purpurea was crossed with O. anthropophora. Germination trials in the field showed that seed germination percentages of hybrid seeds were in most cases lower than those originating from pure crosses. In all species pair combinations, total post-mating reproductive isolation was asymmetric. Protocorms associated with a smaller range of fungal symbionts than adult plants, but there was considerable overlap in mycorrhizal associations between protocorms and their respective parents.ConclusionsOur results suggest that mycorrhizal associations contribute little to reproductive isolation. Pre-mating barriers are probably the main factors determining hybridization rates between the investigated species.
Background and Aims. Distyly is a floral polymorphism characterized by the presence of two discrete morphs with reciprocal positioning of anthers and stigmas in flowers on different plants within the same population. Although reciprocal herkogamy and associated floral traits are generally thought to be discrete and strict polymorphisms, little is known about variation in floral traits related to the distylous syndrome within and among populations of a single species. In this study, variation in
floral morphology and reciprocal positioning of the sexual organs in the distylous Primula veris (cowslip) is quantified. Methods. Data were collected in ten populations occurring in two contrasting habitat types (grasslands and forests), and for each population the average level of reciprocity was assessed, the strength of the self-incompatibility system was determined, and seed production under natural conditions was quantified. Results. In grassland populations, flowers showed clear distyly with low and symmetric reciprocity indices at both the lower and upper level. In forests, P. veris produced larger flowers that showed strong deviations in stigma–anther separation, especially in the L-morph. This deviation was mainly driven by variation in stigma height, resulting in high and asymmetric reciprocity indices and the occurrence of several short-styled homostylous plants. Self-incompatibility was, however, strict in both habitats, and morph ratios did not differ significantly from isoplethy. The observed shift in reciprocity in forest populations was associated with a significant reduction in seed production in the L-morph. Conclusions. The results indicate that populations of P. veris show habitat-specific variation in flower morphology. Deviations from perfect reciprocal positioning of stigmas and anthers also translate into reduced seed production, suggesting that small changes in sexual organ reciprocity can have far-reaching ecological and evolutionary implications.