Water influences how seed production responds to conspecific and heterospecific pollen

Wilnelia Recart, Brittany Ottoson, Diane R Campbell
American Journal of Botany 2019 April 19

PREMISE: Outcrossing species depend on pollen from conspecific individuals that may not be exposed to the same abiotic conditions as maternal plants. Additionally, many flowers receive heterospecific pollen, which can also influence seed production. Studies aimed to understand how abiotic conditions influence seed production tend to focus on maternal conditions and leave unexplored the effect of abiotic conditions experienced by pollen donors. We tested how water availability to pollen donors, both conspecific and heterospecific, influenced the seed production of recipient plants exposed to different water availability regimes.

METHODS: In a greenhouse setting we manipulated the water availability (low- or high-water treatment) to potted recipient plants (Phacelia parryi), to conspecific pollen donors, and to heterospecific pollen donors (Brassica nigra). We hand pollinated recipient plants with different pollen mixes that represented all combinations of conspecific pollen mixed with heterospecific pollen. From these hand pollinations we determined the amount of pollen that was transferred, pollen volume, pollen shape, and seed production.

RESULTS: Higher water availability to conspecific pollen donors led to higher seed production. Under low water availability to heterospecific pollen donors, seed production was unaffected by recipient or conspecific pollen donor treatment. Under high water availability to heterospecific pollen donors, seed production was highest when conspecific pollen donors and pollen recipients also received the high-water treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: Environmental conditions of pollen donors can influence the seed production of maternal plants. These results illustrate potential impacts of environmental heterogeneity on post-pollination events that lead to seed production and thus impact a pollinator's contribution to plant fitness.


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