Experimental investigation of the effect of spatial aggregation on reproductive success in a rewardless orchid

Oecologia. 2006 Dec;150(3):435-41. doi: 10.1007/s00442-006-0530-0. Epub 2006 Aug 29.


Plant reproductive success within a patch may depend on plant aggregation through pollinator attraction. For rewardless plants that lack rewards for pollinators, reproductive success may rely strongly on the learning abilities of pollinators. These abilities depend on relative co-flowering rewarding and rewardless plant species spatial distributions. We investigated the effect of aggregation on the reproductive success of a rewardless orchid by setting up 16 arrays in a factorial design with two levels of intraspecific aggregation for both a rewardless orchid and a rewarding co-flowering species. Our results show that increasing aggregation of both species negatively influenced the reproductive success of the rewardless plants. To our knowledge, this is the first experimental study demonstrating negative effects of aggregation on reproductive success of a rewardless species due both to its own spatial aggregation and that of a co-flowering rewarding species. We argue that pollinator learning behaviour is the key driver behind this result.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Demography*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • France
  • Orchidaceae / physiology*
  • Pollen*
  • Reproduction / physiology