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Am J Bot. 2003 Feb;90(2):214-25. doi: 10.3732/ajb.90.2.214.

Variation in pollinator effectiveness in swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata (Apocynaceae).

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Blandy Experimental Farm, University of Virginia, 400 Blandy Farm Lane, Boyce, Virginia 22620 USA;


The contribution of a pollinator toward plant fitness (i.e., its "effectiveness") can determine its importance for the plant's evolutionary ecology. We compared pollinators in a population of Asclepias incarnata (Apocynaceae) for several components of pollinator effectiveness over two flowering seasons to evaluate their importance to plant reproduction. Insects of the order Hymenoptera predominate in A. incarnata pollination, but there appears to be no specialization for pollination within this order. Pollinators varied significantly in nearly every component of effectiveness that we measured, including pollen load, removal and deposition of pollen, pollination efficiency (deposition/removal), flower-handling time, and potential for geitonogamy (fractional pollen deposition). The visitation rate of pollinators also varied significantly between years and through time within years. Pollination success and percentage fruit-set of unmanipulated plants in the population also varied significantly between years, and pollination success varied among sample times within years. Most components of effectiveness were weakly correlated, suggesting that the contributions of visitor species toward pollination varied among effectiveness components. Mean flower-handling time, however, was strongly correlated with several components, including pollen removal and deposition, pollination efficiency, and fractional pollen deposition. These findings highlight the significance of pollination variability for plant reproduction and suggest that time-dependent foraging behaviors may play an important role in determining pollinator effectiveness.

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