Sit-and-wait pollination in the spring flowering woodland plant, Trillium grandiflorum
In animal-pollinated plants, reproductive success is commonly limited by pollen availability, which can occur in environments where pollinator activity is scarce or variable. Extended floral longevity to maximize a plant’s access to pollinators may be an adaptation to such uncertain pollination environments. Here, we investigated the effects of flower exposure time to pollinators on female fertility (fruit and seed set) in the bee-pollinated woodland herb Trillium grandiflorum, a species with long-lived flowers (~17-21 d) that blooms in early spring when pollinator activity is often variable. We experimentally exposed flowers to pollinators for different amounts of time to determine the extent to which floral longevity influenced reproductive success. The amount of time that flowers were exposed to pollinators significantly increased fruit set and seed set per flower, but not seed set per fruit. Our results provide experimental evidence that long floral life spans may function as a ‘sit-and-wait’ pollination strategy to increase the amount of exposure time to pollinators and promote seed set in the unpredictable pollination environments often experienced by early spring ephemerals. In large populations with infrequent pollinator visitation, as commonly occurs in T. grandiflorum, pollination may be a largely stochastic process.
Flower longevity; pollinator exposure; pollen limitation; stochastic pollination environment; bee pollination
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