Effects of florivory on plant-pollinator interactions: Implications for male and female components of plant reproduction

Am J Bot. 2016 Jun;103(6):1061-70. doi: 10.3732/ajb.1600144. Epub 2016 Jun 21.


Premise of the study: Florivory could have direct negative effects on plant fitness due to consumption of floral organs, and indirect effects mediated through changes in traits important to pollination. These effects likely vary with plant sexual system, depending on sex- or morph-specific patterns of damage. We investigated the direct and indirect effects of simulated florivory on male and female components of reproduction in the native, distylous vine Gelsemium sempervirens.

Methods: We crossed floral damage and supplemental pollination treatments in a common garden array and tracked pollinator behavioral responses. We also estimated male function using fluorescent dye as an analog for pollen transfer, and measured both fruit and seed production.

Key results: The effects of floral damage varied by floral morph, the genus of floral visitor, and the component of reproduction measured. Damage reduced the number of pollinator visits to pin but not thrum plants, and increased the time some pollinators spent per flower in thrum but not pin plants. Flowers of damaged plants transferred more dye particles to recipient plants compared to undamaged plants, but only later in the season when the majority of dye transfer occurred. Damage had no effect on female reproduction.

Conclusion: These results suggest that florivory can have positive indirect effects on estimated male plant reproduction through changes in different pollinators' behavior at flowers, but the effects of floral damage vary with male vs. female function. These results underscore the importance of other species' interactions at flowers in driving pollinator behavior and pollen transfer dynamics.

Keywords: floral herbivory; florivory; indirect effects; pollen transfer; pollination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coloring Agents / metabolism
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Flowers / physiology*
  • Fluorescence
  • Gelsemium / physiology*
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Pollination / physiology*
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Seeds / physiology


  • Coloring Agents