Competition for pollination: effects of pollen of an invasive plant on seed set of a native congener
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Competition for pollination can be an important factor in plant reproduction, but little attention has been given to the effect of the growing number of invasive plant species on pollination of native species. As a first step in understanding this threat, we used hand pollination to investigate the effects of pollen from an invasive species (Lythrum salicaria) on seed set in a sympatric and co-flowering native congener (L. alatum). Dispersal of fluorescent dyes in the field confirms that pollinators (bumble bees and honey bees) transfer pollen between species. To determine the potential effect of such interspecific pollen transfer on seed set of the native, we pollinated 773 flowers on 20 plants with one of three treatments: legitimate conspecific pollen, a mixture of conspecific and foreign pollen, and foreign pollen. The mixed-pollen treatment resulted in 28.8% lower seed set relative to conspecific pollination. Foreign crosses resulted in extremely low seed set. Observations of pollen germination indicate that events at the stigmatic surface contribute to the reduction in seed set for mixed pollination. Our results indicate that the impacts of invasive species may extend beyond vegetative competition to include competition for pollination.
KeywordsDye transfer Heterostyly Hybridization Interspecific pollen Lythrum
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