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Ann Bot. 2009 Jun;103(8):1227-37. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcp066. Epub 2009 Mar 24.

Reproductive success of non-rewarding Cypripedium japonicum benefits from low spatial dispersion pattern and asynchronous flowering.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100093 China. hqsun@ibcas.ac.cn



Outcrossing animal-pollinated plants, particularly non-rewarding species, often experience pollinator limitation to reproduction. Pollinator visitation is affected by various factors, and it is hypothesized that reproduction in non-rewarding plants would benefit from low spatial flower abundance and asynchronous flowering. In order to test this hypothesis, the influence of spatial pattern and flowering phenology on male and female reproductive success (RS) was investigated in a non-rewarding orchid, Cypripedium japonicum, in central China over two flowering seasons.


The probabilities of intrafloral self-pollination and geitonogamy caused by pollinator behaviours were estimated from field observations. Pollinator limitation was evaluated by hand-pollination experiments. RS was surveyed in different spatial flower dispersal patterns and local flower densities. The effects of flowering phenological traits on RS were assessed by univariate and multivariate regression analyses.


Hand-pollination experiments revealed that fruit production was strongly pollen limited throughout the entire reproductive season - over two seasons, 74.3 % of individuals set fruit following hand pollination, but only 5.2-7.7 % did so under natural conditions. Intrafloral self-pollination and geitonogamy within the potential clones might be rare. Both male and female fitness were substantially lower in clustered plants than in those growing singly. An increase in local conspecific flower density significantly and negatively influenced male RS, but had no effect on female RS. Phenotypic selection analysis indicated that individuals flowering earlier have the greatest probability of RS. Over 85 % of sampled flowering individuals had a flowering synchrony value >0.7; however, highly synchronous flowering was not advantageous for RS, as indicated by the negative directional selection differentials and gradients, and by the positive quadratic selection gradients.


These results support the hypothesis that, as a consequence of density-dependent selection, low spatio-temporal flower abundance is advantageous for attracting pollinators and for reproduction in natural populations of non-rewarding C. japonicum.

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