, Volume 92, Issue 2, pp 177-182

Determinants of seed production in Geranium maculatum

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Summary

We experimentally examined factors limiting seed production in two populations of the perennial woodland herb Geranium maculatum in central Illinois, USA. To test the pollinator-limitation hypothesis, we compared the seed production of plants whose flowers were supplementarily pollinated with outcross pollen to that of control plants receiving natural pollination only. To test if fruit production by early flowers suppresses fruit and seed formation by late flowers, a third group of plants was prevented from producing seed from the first 50% of the flowers to open (stigmas were excised at flower opening). Finally, to test if seed maturation and flower initiation are correlated with photosynthetic capacity, we performed a defoliation experiment in which either the stem leaves within the inflorescence, the stem leaves below the inflorescence, or the rosette leaves were removed during late flowering. Plants that reccived supplemental pollination produced 1.5–1.6 times more seeds than control plants. We found no difference between hand-pollinated plants and controls in mortality, flowering frequency or number of flowers produced in the year following the experiment. In both control and hand-pollinated plants, the fruit set and total seed production of early flowers were more than twice as high as those of late flowers. In one of the two populations, plants whose early flowers were prevented from setting seed produced significantly more seeds from their late flowers than did control plants. Seed predation was low and did not differ between early and late flowers. Leaf removal did not affect seed number or size in the year of defoliation, nor did it reduce survival or flower production in the subsequent year. This suggests that the plants were able to compensate for a partial defoliation by using stored resources or by increasing photosynthetic rates in the remaining leaves. Taken together, the results demonstrate that both pollinator activity and resource levels influence patterns of seed production in G. maculatum. While seed production was pollinatorlimited in both populations, a seasonal decline in resource availability was apparently responsible for the low seed production by late flowers.