Plant Animal Interactions


, Volume 139, Issue 1, pp 30-34

First online:

Cold temperature increases winter fruit removal rate of a bird-dispersed shrub

  • Charles KwitAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of FloridaSavannah River Ecology Laboratory Email author 
  • , Douglas J. LeveyAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Florida
  • , Cathryn H. GreenbergAffiliated withSouthern Research Station, USDA Forest Service
  • , Scott F. PearsonAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of FloridaWashington Natural Areas Program, Washington Department of Natural Resources
  • , John P. McCartyAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of FloridaDepartment of Biology, University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • , Sarah SargentAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of FloridaDepartment of Biology, Allegheny College

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We tested the hypothesis that winter removal rates of fruits of wax myrtle, Myrica cerifera, are higher in colder winters. Over a 9-year period, we monitored M. cerifera fruit crops in 13 0.1-ha study plots in South Carolina, U.S.A. Peak ripeness occurred in November, whereas peak removal occurred in the coldest months, December and January. Mean time to fruit removal within study plots was positively correlated with mean winter temperatures, thereby supporting our hypothesis. This result, combined with the generally low availability of winter arthropods, suggests that fruit abundance may play a role in determining winter survivorship and distribution of permanent resident and short-distance migrant birds. From the plant’s perspective, it demonstrates inter-annual variation in the temporal component of seed dispersal, with possible consequences for post-dispersal seed and seedling ecology.


Avian seed dispersal Frugivory Seed predation Winter food Yellow-rumped warbler.