Background and aims: The thermoregulatory flower of the Asian sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) can maintain a relatively stable temperature despite great variations in ambient temperature during anthesis. The thermoregulation has been hypothesized to offer a direct energy reward for pollinators in lotus flowers. This study aims to examine whether the stable temperature maintained in the floral chamber influences the fertilization process and seed development.
Methods: An artificial refrigeration instrument was employed to cool flowers during the fertilization process and post-fertilization period in an experimental population. The effect of temperature on post-pollination events was also examined by removing petals in two field populations.
Key results: Treatments with low floral temperature did not reduce stigma receptivity or pollen viability in undehisced anthers. Low temperature during the fertilization period significantly decreased seed set per flower but low temperature during the phase of seed development had no effect, suggesting that temperature regulation by lotus flowers facilitated fertilization success. Hand-pollination treatments in two field populations indicated that seed set of flowers with petals removed was lower than that of intact flowers in north China, where ambient temperatures are low, but not in south China, confirming that reducing the temperature of carpels did influence post-pollination events.
Conclusions: The experiments suggest that floral thermoregulation in lotus could enhance female reproductive success by facilitating fertilization.