, Volume 140, Issue 2, pp 295–301

Do floral syndromes predict specialization in plant pollination systems? An experimental test in an “ornithophilous” African Protea

  • Anna L. Hargreaves
  • Steven D. Johnson
  • Erica Nol
Plant Animal Interactions

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-004-1495-5

Cite this article as:
Hargreaves, A.L., Johnson, S.D. & Nol, E. Oecologia (2004) 140: 295. doi:10.1007/s00442-004-1495-5


We investigated whether the “ornithophilous” floral syndrome exhibited in an African sugarbush, Protea roupelliae  (Proteaceae), reflects ecological specialization for bird-pollination. A breeding system experiment established that the species is self-compatible, but dependent on visits by pollinators for seed set. The cup-shaped inflorescences were visited by a wide range of insect and bird species; however inflorescences from which birds, but not insects, were excluded by wire cages set few seeds relative to open-pollinated controls. One species, the malachite sunbird (Nectarinia famosa), accounted for more than 80% of all birds captured in P. roupelliae  stands and carried the largest protea pollen loads. A single visit by this sunbird species was enough to increase seed set considerably over unvisited, bagged inflorescences. Our results show that P. roupelliae is largely dependent on birds for pollination, and thus confirm the utility of floral syndromes for generating hypotheses about the ecology of pollination systems.


Floral syndrome Ornithophily Pollen-limitation Pollination efficiency Proteaceae 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna L. Hargreaves
    • 2
  • Steven D. Johnson
    • 1
  • Erica Nol
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Botany and ZoologyUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalScottsvilleSouth Africa
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada

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