Plant interactions for pollinator visits: a test of the magnet species effect

Summary

From 1985–1987, patterns of fruit and seed set were studied in a population of mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), a clonal, self-incompatible herb found in deciduous woods in eastern North America. Mayapple flowers do not produce nectar, but depend on infrequent visits by nectar-seeking queen bumble bees for pollination. In all years female reproductive success in mayapple colonies was influenced by colony size (number of flowers), by the distance to neighbouring colonies and by proximity to lousewort plants (Pedicularis canadensis), a prolific nectar producer heavily visited by bumble bees. In all years fruit and seed set were greater in mayapple colonies <25 m from lousewort flowers than in matched colonies which were >50 m from lousewort. In 1985 and 1987 the frequency of queen bumble bee visits to flowers in colonies close to lousewort was about four times greater than to distant colonies. In 1986 I removed about 80% of lousewort flowers to test whether the enhanced fruit and seed set in mayapples close to lousewort was pollinator mediated. Mayapple colonies close to flowerless lousewort patches did not differ in fruit or seed set from matched colonies >50 m from lousewort. In contrast, mayapples close to flowering lousewort patches had greater fruit and seed set compared with distant colonies. Over all years, a larger proportion of mayapples close to flowering lousewort patches had enhanced fruit and seed set compared with colonies close to louseworts without flowers. Though rarely documented, this type of facilitative interaction between plants that are highly attractive to pollinators (“magnet” species), and co-flowering species that are rarely visited by pollinators, may be widespread in plant communities.

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Laverty, T.M. Plant interactions for pollinator visits: a test of the magnet species effect. Oecologia 89, 502–508 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00317156

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Key words

  • Mayapple
  • Podophyllum peltatum
  • Lousewort
  • Pedicularis canadensis
  • Pollinator facilitation