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Am J Bot. 2010 Jan;97(1):174-8. doi: 10.3732/ajb.0900183.

Floral emasculation reveals pollen quality limitation of seed output in Bulbine bulbosa (Asphodelaceae)1.

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  • 1Botany, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.


Pollen commonly limits seed output in natural plant populations, but the relative contributions of pollen quantity and quality to pollen limitation remain largely unexplored. Estimates of these contributions are needed to promote better understanding of the ecological and evolutionary consequences of pollen limitation. We assessed pollen limitation and distinguished how pollen quantity and quality contributed to seed output in the predominantly outcrossing herb Bulbine bulbosa. We compared seed output of emasculated and cross-pollinated plants that could not self-pollinate with that of intact plants. Seed output was similar in emasculated and cross-pollinated plants, but it was about 50% less in intact plants. These findings indicate that the quantity of cross-pollen deposited by pollinators did not limit seed output. However, pollinators also deposited self-pollen, which reduced seed output because selfing disabled ovules, rendering them unavailable for cross-fertilization. We conclude that pollen quality rather than quantity can limit seed output under natural conditions, which supports recent proposals for greater consideration of pollen quality in the study of pollen limitation.

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