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On flower visitors and true pollinators: The case of protandrous Heracleum sphondylium L. (Apiaceae)

Abstract

Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium L.), a common European umbellifer, is very variable in terms of flower and inflorescence morphology. Its flowers are visited by numerous insects, yet little is known about the importance of the particular insect taxa. I observed umbels of two colour morphs (subspecies) of Heracleum sphondylium growing in NE Poland, which were visited by more than 108 insect species during two study seasons. Analysis of the insects' importance suggests that the most efficient pollinators are the medium-sized flies Eriozona syrphoides, and Lucilia spp. (Diptera). Bumblebees Bombus terrestris (Hymenoptera), beetles of genus Stenurella spp. and Dasytes spp. (Coleoptera) and flies Eristalis spp., Meliscaeva cinctella, Phaonia angelicae and Thricops nigrifrons also contribute to pollination of the studied plants, but their efficiency shows considerable seasonal variation. Although the dense umbels of the white flowered H. sphondylium subsp. sphondylium are generally more attractive for insect visitors than the loose yellowish inflorescences of H. sphondylium subsp. sibiricum, these taxa do not seem to attract different sets of the pollinators. For both subspecies, flowers in the staminate phase were visited significantly more often than those in the pistillate phase. Some flower visitors visited the staminate phase only, which suggests they may be parasites rather than pollinators.

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Zych, M. On flower visitors and true pollinators: The case of protandrous Heracleum sphondylium L. (Apiaceae). Plant Syst. Evol. 263, 159–179 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00606-006-0493-y

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Keywords

  • Heracleum sphondylium
  • Umbelliferae
  • Diptera
  • pollination
  • dichogamy
  • colour morphs
  • pollinator importance
  • specialization
  • generalization