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The reproductive biology of two understory plants in the Atlantic rain forest, Brazil

Abstract

Outcrossing and sexual reproduction of most flowering plants depends on pollinators. Plant traits likely to be involved in pollinator attraction include flower color, shape, and size. Furthermore, plant or flower density and the temporal flowering pattern may have an effect on reproduction. In this study, we examine the pollination ecology, breeding system, female reproductive output, and germination of two tropical understory species, Stenostephanus lobeliiformis (Acanthaceae) and Besleria melancholica (Gesneriaceae), which differ in these traits. Pollinator observations revealed that the dense flowering S. lobeliiformis with pinkish flowers received a higher diversity of pollinators, but visitor frequency measured as visits per flower per hour was much less (0.1 h−1) than that to B. melancholica, which has a smaller floral display of dull-colored flowers (1.5 h−1). Pollination experiments revealed that S. lobeliiformis but not B. melancholica is pollen-limited. In addition, both species are partially self-incompatible and depend on pollinators for outcrossing. Natural fruit set of open-pollinated unmanipulated flowers (control treatment) in both species is 22–26 %. Germination studies indicated inbreeding depression in S. lobeliiformis. We conclude that the pollination ecology of these species is influenced by a broad set of traits and that very different combinations of these traits can be successful in terms of reproduction.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the “Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu” (REGUA), especially to Nicholas and Raquel Locke, for logistical support and the permission to work on the property. We would like to thank Juliane Bader, Martin Hoepke, Carina Miriam Müller, and Jens Rabenstein for help in the field. We are grateful to Christine Voigt for support with the germination studies, to Anja Wodak for analyzing the nectar samples, and to Laszlo and Daniela Farkas for the spell check of the manuscript. KS was funded by the German National Academic Foundation. We thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor David Inouye for their constructive comments on former drafts of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Katharina Stein.

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Stein, K., Hensen, I. The reproductive biology of two understory plants in the Atlantic rain forest, Brazil. Ecol Res 28, 593–602 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-013-1050-0

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Keywords

  • Besleria melancholica
  • Floral visitors
  • Hummingbird
  • Nectar
  • Nectar robbing
  • Phaethornis
  • Pollination experiments
  • Reproductive biology
  • Stenostephanus lobeliiformis
  • Trigona