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Pollinator foraging behavior and pollen collection on the floral morphs of tristylous Pontederia cordata L.

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The foraging behavior of the pollinators of tristylous Pontederia cordata was studied to determine if differences in floral morphology would lead to preferential visitation of the floral morphs. Although nectar production is not different in the three floral morphs, differences in the production and size of pollen grains produced by the three anther levels results in the morphs offering variable amounts of resources to pollen-collecting insects. Bumblebees (Bombus spp.) and the solitary bee Melissodes apicata used P. cordata primarily as a nectar source and therefore did not seem to exhibit any morph preference. In contrast, honeybees visited flowers mainly for pollen and preferred to forage on long-level anthers of the short-and mid-styled morphs. An analysis of the composition of corbicular pollen loads indicated that, relative to the frequency of production in the population: 1) honeybees collected an excess of pollen from long-level anthers; 2) bumblebees collected the three types of pollen without any apparent preference; and 3) M. apicata preferentially collected pollen from the short-level anthers — presumably because their proboscides are modified by the presence of tiny hairs. The results suggest that P. cordata in Ontario is serviced by a diverse, unspecialized pollinator fauna which is not co-adapted to the tristylous floral polymorphism.

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Wolfe, L.M., Barrett, S.C.H. Pollinator foraging behavior and pollen collection on the floral morphs of tristylous Pontederia cordata L.. Oecologia 74, 347–351 (1987).

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Key words

  • Pontederia cordata
  • Bombus
  • Tristyly
  • Pollination
  • Behavior