Carlsson-Graner U, Elmqvist T, Agren J, Gardfjell H, Ingvarsson P
Floral sex ratios, disease and seed set in dioecious Silene dioica
Journal of Ecology: 1998 86:79-91
1 In the dioecious, perennial herb Silene dioica, the density of pollen donors in a population is determined by overall plant density, the sex ratio and the proportion of plants infected with the anther-smut fungus Microbotryum violaceum, which results in permanent sterility of both male and female plants. 2 Pollinators (Bombus spp.) were found to prefer male flowers and to avoid diseased flowers. This may result in an overall lower visitation frequency and increased risk for pollen limitation in populations with a low density of males or a high incidence of disease. 3 Compared with open-pollinated flowers, hand pollination resulted in a significant increase in the number of seeds produced per fruit in populations with an experimentally reduced proportion of males (25% and 50% male flowers) but not in a naturally male-dominated population (75% male flowers). Seed production per plant was increased by hand pollination only in the most female-dominated population. Because the floral sex ratio is often male-biased, resources rather than pollen availability are likely to set the upper limit for total seed production per individual in most healthy populations of S. dioica. 4 There was a negative relationship between seed set and incidence of disease across 22 populations in both years of a field study. However, there was no consistent difference between the responses of highly diseased populations (incidence 30-56%) and populations with a low disease incidence (incidence 0-8 %) to hand pollination. 5 In a greenhouse experiment with cloned hand-pollinated females, the presence of spores on healthy flowers was found to reduce seed set significantly. In highly diseased populations, therefore, the frequent deposition of spores by flower visitors onto remaining healthy plants may decrease seed production below the potential level determined by resources or pollen availability.
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