Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 755–777 | Cite as

Pollination Ecology and Seed Production of Rhododendron Ponticum in Native and Exotic Habitats

  • Jane C. Stout
  • John A. N. Parnell
  • Juan Arroyo
  • Tasman P. Crowe


Alien plants may be reproductively limited in exotic habitats because of a lack of mutualistic pollinators. However, if plants are adequately served by generalist pollinators, successful reproduction, naturalisation and expansion into exotic habitats may occur. Rhododendron ponticum is very successful, ecologically damaging invasive plant in Britain and Ireland, but is in decline in its native Iberian habitat. It spreads locally by sending out lateral branches, but for longer distance dispersal it relies on sexually produced seeds. Little is known about R. ponticum's pollination ecology and breeding biology in invaded habitats. We examined the flower-visiting communities and maternal reproductive success of R. ponticum in native populations in southern Spain and in exotic ones in Ireland. R. ponticum in flowers are visited by various generalist (polylectic) pollinator species in both native and exotic habitats. Although different species visited flowers in Ireland and Spain, the flower visitation rate was not significantly different. Insects foraging on R. ponticum in Spain carried less R. ponticum pollen than their Irish counterparts, and carried fewer pollen types. Fruit production per inflorescence varied greatly within all populations but was significantly correlated with visitation at the population level. Nectar was significantly depleted by insects in some exotic populations, suggesting that this invasive species is providing a floral resource for native insects in some parts of Ireland. The generality of the pollination system may be factor contributing to R.ponticum's success in exotic habitats.

Key words

Exotic plants Generalism Invasive plants Maternal reproductive success Mutualism Relict plants Rhododendron ponticum 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane C. Stout
    • 1
  • John A. N. Parnell
    • 1
  • Juan Arroyo
    • 2
  • Tasman P. Crowe
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Botany, Trinity CollegeUniversity of DublinDublin 2Ireland
  2. 2.Departamento de Biologìa Vegetal y EcologíaUniversidad de SevillaSevillaSpain
  3. 3.Department of ZoologyUniversity College DublinBelfield, Dublin 4Ireland

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