Pollinator-mediated competition between two congeners, Limnanthes douglasii subsp. rosea and L. Alba (Limnanthaceae)

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Premise of Study: Pollinator visits are essential for reproduction in many plants, yet interspecific movements of pollinators can also lead to competitive interactions between coflowering species. Pollination-mediated reductions in fertility could potentially lead to exclusion of competing plant species, and may generate spatial variation in the associations among coflowering species across a landscape. Methods: I documented the potential for heterospecific pollen transfer to cause competitive interactions between two annual grassland species native to California, Limnanthes douglasii subsp. rosea and L. alba, two reproductively incompatible species that have broadly overlapping geographic ranges in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. I observed pollinator movement in constructed arrays and controlled crosses in the greenhouse and field to investigate the consequences of heterospecific pollen transfer. Key Results: Pollinators move readily between species when they are presented together in experimental arrays. In the greenhouse, deposition of heterospecific pollen decreased fertility in both species. The decrease in seeds produced per flower was much more pronounced in L. d. rosea (90.6% reduction) than in L. alba (40.8% reduction). In field experiments, L. d. rosea plants that received pollen from heterospecific neighbors first showed >50% reduction in per-flower fertility. Conclusions: Under natural pollination conditions, heterospecific pollen transfer has the ability to decrease the fertility of L. d. rosea when it occurs at low frequency in mixed stands. Accordingly, pollinator-mediated competition may contribute to the locally disjunct distributions of these two species. It may also influence important restoration decisions in vernal pool habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1125-1132
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of botany
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012


  • Competition for pollination
  • Fine-scale distribution
  • Heterospecific pollen transfer
  • Limnanthes
  • Plant-plant interactions
  • Vernal pool

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