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Oecologia. 2008 Jul;156(4):807-17. doi: 10.1007/s00442-008-1033-y. Epub 2008 Apr 16.

The plot thickens: does low density affect visitation and reproductive success in a perennial herb, and are these effects altered in the presence of a co-flowering species?

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  • 1Biology Department, Duke University, Box 90338, Durham, NC, 27708-0338, USA.


Plants may experience reduced reproductive success at low densities, due to lower numbers of pollinator visits or reduced visit quality. Co-occurring plant species that share pollinators have the potential to facilitate pollination by either increasing numbers of pollinator visits or increasing the quality of visits, but also have the potential to reduce plant reproductive success through competition for pollination. I used a field experiment with a common distylous perennial (Piriqueta caroliniana) in the presence and absence of a co-flowering species (Coreopsis leavenworthii) in plots with one of four different distances between conspecific plants. I found strong negative effects of increasing interplant distance (related to conspecific density) on several components of P. caroliniana reproductive success: pollinator visits to plants per plot visit, visits received by individual plants, conspecific pollen grains on stigmas, outcross pollen grains on stigmas, and probability of fruit production. Although P. caroliniana and C. leavenworthii share pollinators, the co-flowering species did not affect visitation, pollen receipt or reproductive effort in P. caroliniana. Pollinators moved very infrequently between species in this experiment, so floral constancy might explain the lack of effect of the co-flowering species on P. caroliniana reproductive success at low densities. In co-occurring self-incompatible plants with floral rewards, reproductive success at low density may depend more on conspecific densities than on the presence of other species.

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