Plant Animal Interactions Original Paper


, Volume 105, Issue 4, pp 509-516

Effects of flower size and number on pollinator visitation to wild radish, Raphanus raphanistrum

  • Jeffrey K. ConnerAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution, University of Illinois
  • , Scott RushAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution, University of Illinois

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Plant traits that increase pollinator visitation should be under strong selection. However, few studies have demonstrated a causal link between natural variation in attractive traits and natural variation in visitation to whole plants. Here we examine the effects of flower number and size on visitation to wild radish by two taxa of pollinators over 3 years, using a combination of multiple regression and experimental reductions in both traits. We found strong, consistent evidence that increases in both flower number and size cause increased visitation by syrphid flies. The results for small bees were harder to interpret, because the multiple regression and experimental manipulation results did not agree. It is likely that increased flower size causes a weak increase in small-bee visitation, but strong relationships between flower number and small-bee visitation seen in 2 years of observational studies were not corroborated by experimental manipulation of this trait. Small bees may actually have responded to an unmeasured trait correlated with flower number, or lower small-bee abundances when the flower number manipulation was conducted may have reduced our ability to detect a causal relationship. We conclude that studies using only 1 year, one method, or measuring only one trait may not provide an adequate understanding of the effects of plant traits on pollinator attraction.

Key words

Pollinator attraction Raphanus raphanistrum Corolla size Flower number Experimental manipulation