, Volume 203, Issue 2, pp 253-261
Date: 02 Dec 2008

Reproductive success in the Mexican rewardless Oncidium cosymbephorum (Orchidaceae) facilitated by the oil-rewarding Malpighia glabra (Malpighiaceae)

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Abstract

The pollination of one plant species can be facilitated by the presence of one or more neighboring plant species and evidence has been found in some rewardless species of orchid that benefit from the presence of rewarding plant species in the neighborhood. There are two pollination mechanisms by which a non-rewarding orchid attracts pollinators and increases its reproductive success: (1) A magnetic species effect that occurs even though the flowers do not resemble those of the other species, and (2) floral mimicry where the mimic’s flower resembles that of the model plant species. Oncidium cosymbephorum is a Mexican rewardless epiphytic orchid whose flowers look like those of the rewarding shrub Malpighia glabra (Malpighiaceae). The resemblance of O. cosymbephorum to the oil-offering flowers of M. glabra attracts the same pollinators, and the fitness of the orchid is higher when M. glabra is present than when it is absent. We evaluated the facilitation by M. glabra of the orchid’s pollination for natural and artificial clumps of O. cosymbephorum close to and far from M. glabra over 4 years. Two experiments were performed at five different study sites to evaluate the effect of the presence and absence of M. glabra on the reproductive success of O. cosymbephorum. In experiment 1, we recorded fruit set production in natural and artificial monospecific clumps of the orchid, and in natural and artificial heterospecific clumps of O. cosymbephorum and M. glabra. In experiment 2, we recorded the fruit set of O. cosymbephorum at different sites where individuals grow in monospecific clumps, both before and after cultivated individuals of oil-producing M. glabra had been planted in their vicinity. Both experiments showed that the reproductive success of O. cosymbephorum was greater in the presence of M. glabra than it was in its absence. This study provides experimental evidence for the magnetic species effect. Floral similarity between O. cosymbephorum and M. glabra, should be experimentally tested to determine whether it is adaptive.