The timing and effectiveness of sequential pollinations in Hibiscus moscheutos

TitleThe timing and effectiveness of sequential pollinations in Hibiscus moscheutos
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsSpira TP, Snow AA, Puterbaugh MN

In many species with animal-pollinated flowers, pollen arrives on the stigma in pulses and late-arriving pollen may be precluded from fertilizing ovules. When seed set per fruit is not pollen limited, the fate of pollen from later cohorts is affected by the time between pollinator visits, variation in pollen tube growth rates, and the amounts of pollen deposited relative to the availability of stigmatic area and unfertilized ovules. In a natural population of Hibiscus moscheutos, we found that consecutive pollinator visits to individual flowers occurred within 15 min of each other in more than half of our observations. We then conducted hand-pollination experiments using equal doses of early and late pollen bearing unique allozyme markers for paternity analysis (each dose was more than sufficient to result in full seed set). When pollen was applied 15 or 30 min after an earlier pollen load, the proportions of seeds sired by late-arriving pollen were reduced by 13-30% and 21-57%, respectively. A few pollen-tubes from the late pollen load sired seeds even when a large dose of pollen was applied 1-2 h earlier, suggesting that the performance of pollen grains within each cohort was highly variable. The advantage of arriving early was greater when the first pollen load was applied at 0930 hours as compared with 1130 hours. We found no effect of previous pollination on the growth rates of late-arriving pollen-tubes. Taken together, these results demonstrate that pollen from later visits can compete with pollen from earlier visits, but the success of late-arriving pollen typically declines to very low levels after an interval of about 2 h. Given that "surplus" pollen often arrives on stigmas by mid-morning, we conclude that male reproductive succes is more likely to be affected by the timing of pollen dispersal and pollen-tube competitive ability than by the total amount of pollen that is exported from flowers.