Flowering dynamics and pollinator visitation of oilseed echium (Echium plantagineum)

PLoS One. 2014 Nov 26;9(11):e113556. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113556. eCollection 2014.


Echium (Echium plantagineum L.) is an alternative oilseed crop in summer-wet temperate regions that provides floral resources to pollinators. Its seed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as stearidonic acid, which is desired highly by the cosmetic industry. Seeds were sown in field plots over three years in western Minnesota in spring (early-sown) or early summer (late-sown), and flower abundance, pollinator visitation, and seed yields were studied. Initial flowering commenced 41 to 55 d after sowing, and anthesis duration (first flowering to harvest) was 34 to 70 d. Late sowing dates delayed anthesis, but increased the intensity of visitation by pollinators. Cumulative flower densities ranged from 1 to 4.5 billion ha-1. Flowers attracted numerous honey bees (Apis mellifera L.), as many as 35 per minute of observation, which represented about 50% of all insect visitors. Early-sown echium produced seed yields up to 750 kg ha-1, which were 2-29 times higher than those of late-sown echium. Early sowing of echium in Minnesota provides abundant floral resources for pollinators for up to two months and simultaneously produces seed yields whose profits rival those of corn (Zea mays L.).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / physiology*
  • Crops, Agricultural / economics
  • Crops, Agricultural / growth & development
  • Echium / physiology*
  • Flowers / physiology*
  • Minnesota
  • Pollination / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Seeds / growth & development*

Grants and funding

This work was supported through the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) award 2012-67009-20272. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.