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Pollination Ecology of the Spring Wildflower Community of a Temperate Deciduous Forest

Alexander F. Motten
Ecological Monographs
Vol. 56, No. 1 (Mar., 1986), pp. 21-42
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/2937269
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2937269
Page Count: 22
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Pollination Ecology of the Spring Wildflower Community of a Temperate Deciduous Forest
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Abstract

I studied the spring wildflower community of mesic deciduous forests in piedmont North Carolina to determine (a) the extent to which fecundity is pollination-limited in the community, (b) the importance of competition for pollination in affecting seed-set, and (c) the characteristics of plants and their floral visitors that most contribute to full pollination. Although inadequate pollination seems likely in the community, supplemental hand-pollination significantly improved fecundity in just 3 of the 12 species I examined. Pollination-limited reproductive success was evident only in a distinctive subset of the community, species pollinated primarily by queen bumble bees. The majority of wildflower species are pollinated by flies and solitary bees. Measurements of visitation rates and pollinator effectiveness on these plants confirmed that they are usually adequately pollinated in spite of a short blooming season, considerable overlap in flowering times, extensive pollinator sharing by concurrently blooming species, and inclement weather that frequently interrupts insect activity. Many of the flies and solitary bees are inconstant foragers, yet competition for pollination among wildflower species through differential pollinator attraction or interspecific pollinator movements usually does not significantly decrease the seed-set of plants with shared visitors. Competition may act with other causes of insufficient pollination, however, as a selective force to maintain a characteristic set of floral biology traits within the community, including autogamy and self-compatibility, extended receptivity, and pollination by a variety of visitor types. That these floral traits contribute significantly to the successful pollination of vernal herbs was demonstrated by observations of visitor behavior, plant caging experiments that excluded visitors or restricted their access to selected flowers, and measurements of floral lifetimes and seed-set for individual plants. These traits are effective regardless of the source of pollination-limited fecundity, and it is the prevalence of such traits, rather than floral specialization or character displacement, that distinguishes the forest spring wildflower community from other communities with potentially inadequate pollinator service.

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