Conservation implications of the reproductive ecology of Agalinis acuta (Scrophulariaceae)

Am J Bot. 2002 Jun;89(6):972-80. doi: 10.3732/ajb.89.6.972.


Reproductive ecology of Agalinis acuta was investigated by examining potential for self-fertilization before and at anthesis, reproductive output from outcrossed vs. selfed matings, and effects of browsing, plant size, and conspecific plant density on seed and fruit production. These features of a plant species can provide indirect information pertinent to conservation such as patterns and maintenance of genetic diversity, risk associated with inbreeding depression, and changes in pollinator abundance or effectiveness. The species is self-compatible, with 97% of selfed flowers setting fruit; pollinators were not required for reproduction. However, seed set in self-pollinated fruits averaged 17-20% less than that in open-pollinated fruits. Geitonogamous and facilitated selfing are possible throughout anthesis and autonomous selfing is possible late in anthesis as corollas abscise. Delaying self-pollination until after outcrossing opportunities likely limits selfing rates and thus reduces risks associated with inbreeding but allows reproduction in absence of pollinators. Supplementing pollen on open-pollinated flowers yielded no additional seed set over controls. Neither early-season browsing of primary stems nor conspecific plant density had significant effects on number of fruits per plant, on fruit size, or on number of seeds from open-pollinated flowers. Currently, reproduction appears to be high (about 2400 seeds/plant), and future risks due to lack of genetic diversity are likely low.