, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 289-300

The cost of floral longevity in Clarkia tembloriensis: An experimental investigation

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The hypothesis that flower maintenance requires resources that would be used to support other plant functions (i.e. a cost of floral maintenance) was tested by experimentally manipulating floral longevity. Plants of Clarkia tembloriensis, a species with pollination-induced flower senescence, received either early or late pollinations (long and short longevities, respectively). We examined the effect of this manipulation on (1) per-flower allocation to nectar production and (2) flower, fruit and seed production per plant under two levels of resource availability. The direct costs of floral longevity measured in terms of nectar sugar were high: flowers that were maintained 35% longer invested proportionately more in nectar sugar (30%). At the whole-plant level, a cost of floral longevity was manifested as reduced seed production, but the magnitude of this cost varied with resource level. While plants with longer-lived flowers showed a 12% reduction in seed production, those that experienced reduced resource levels via partial defoliation, showed a decrement in seed production that was almost three times larger (34%). These differences were not brought about by changes in the number of flowers and fruits, but by significant alterations in their sizes. A model that expresses the cost of flower maintenance as a trade-off between floral longevity and seed production shows that an optimal flower longevity is determined by both the rate of fitness accrual and the cost of floral maintenance.