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New Phytol. 2007;174(1):26-37.

Pollen limitation meets resource allocation: towards a comprehensive methodology.

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Unité d'Ecologie et de Biogéographie, Biodiversity Research Centre, Université catholique de Louvain, Croix du Sud 4-5, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


The standard method of measuring pollen limitation is to add pollen to a number of flowers, preferably to a whole plant, and to compare fruit and seed set with that of naturally pollinated flowers on other plants. In 25 yr of research, this method has yielded valuable data, but it is difficult to use in large plants. This has caused a bias in the available data towards smaller, herbaceous plants with relatively few flowers. I argue that, in order to widen our knowledge of how pollen limitation affects plants, we should go beyond whole-plant pollen addition and change our concept of how a flowering plant functions. The traditional method does not take into account the variation in and dynamics of resource allocation and pollen availability. The concept of integrated physiological units (IPUs) does, but, although it has been applied to pollination biology, it has not received the attention it deserves. I use this article to present its merits again, to propose a step-by-step methodology for studying pollen limitation, and to examine factors influencing possible plant strategies.

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