Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Ecology

Volume

54

Issue

3

Publication Date

1-1-1969

First Page

142

Last Page

156

Abstract

Frasera speciosa is a conspicuous perennial in the Rocky Mountains where it forms discrete colonies whose inflorescences are characterized by almost total absence in some years and great abundance in others. This sporadic yet synchronous flowering was the most conspicuous feature of the reproductive biology of the species and its adaptive value was worth investigation. In a three-mile stretch of the East River valley, Colorado, the following data were gathered over a period of three years: the distribution and abundance of colonies, the floral biology, the dispersal of insect visitors among the flowers of Frasera and its floral associates, the frequency of floral predation and seed-set. Although the percentage of plants with inflorescences was always very low and despite the occasional wide spatial separation of individuals, Frasera invariably attracted the greatest number and diversity of floral visitors and never yielded less than 52% seed-set. It was also shown that pollination was effected by a wide variety of in sect visitors that maintained cross-pollination at a frequency of approximately 15%. In no colonies was floral predation nearly as heavy as in its sympatric associate Lupinus and it was concluded that seed-set in Frasera was not significantly affected by predispersal herbivory. The local synchrony revealed by the occurrence of discrete colonies and the overall synchrony revealed in the almost total absence of floral colonies in some years and their abundance in others is viewed as a strategy for predator avoidance. These mechanisms, together with other aspects of the reproductive biology, also reduce pressure from sympatric species competing for pollinators. It is pointed out that they confer reproductive advantage to a minority species which may otherwise rapidly decline to extinction in the presence of intense competition. The flowering regime of Frasera combines a predator avoidance system which yields widely dispersed colonies in space and in time with a pollination system which success-fully exploits the maximum diversity of floral visitors and maintains excellent seed-set whenever and wherever the colonies appear. The systems are clearly complementary in preventing the build-up of predator populations while maintaining an attractive forage source for potential pollen vectors. The combined effect is to maintain the abundance of the species in a variety of stress environments, in turn resulting in a remarkably wide geographic success. It is considered likely that similar systems will turn out to be very common among entomophilous plants in both temperate and tropical regions.

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