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Floral Color Change in Lupinus Argenteus (Fabaceae): Why Should Plants Advertise the Location of Unrewarding Flowers to Pollinators?

Floral Color Change in Lupinus Argenteus (Fabaceae): Why Should Plants Advertise the Location of Unrewarding Flowers to Pollinators?

Evolution; International Journal of Organic Evolution 43(4): 870-881

ISSN/ISBN: 0014-3820

PMID: 28564205

DOI: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.1989.tb05184.x

I examined the adaptive significance of two floral traits in the perennial herb, Lupinus argenteus: 1) the retention of corollas on "spent" flowers, i.e., flowers containing inviable pollen, unreceptive stigmas, and negligible pollinator rewards and 2) a change in corolla color of retained "spent" flowers, which is restricted to a spot on the banner petal. At anthesis, this spot is yellow, and approximately four days later, it changes to purple. After the change, purple flowers remain on plants an additional 5-7 days before corolla abscission occurs; purple flowers were avoided by pollinators, presumably because they contained less pollen (rewards) than yellow ones. I experimentally tested the hypothesis that purple flowers contribute to the floral display of the plant by removing varying numbers of spent flowers and assessing the effect on pollination visitation. Pollinators preferentially approached and foraged on plants with greater numbers of flowers per inflorescence; they did not discriminate between yellow (rewarding) and purple (nonrewarding) flowers at interplant distances greater than 0.4 meters but would preferentially forage on plants with more total flowers, even if these individuals contained fewer rewarding flowers. Thus, spent flowers increased the overall attractiveness of plants to pollinators. In theory, color change may benefit plants in two ways. First, by directing pollinators to rewarding flowers, the change may increase pollinator foraging efficiency, with the result that pollinators visit more flowers before leaving plants (pollinator-tenure mechanism). Second, by directing pollinators to receptive flowers, the color change may prevent incoming pollen from being wasted on unreceptive stigmas and may prevent collection of inviable pollen (pollination-efficiency mechanism). I tested the pollinator-tenure mechanism experimentally by removing pollen from yellow flowers, thereby reducing the reliability of the color-reward signal. Pollinators visited fewer total flowers on experimental plants than on controls, resulting in reduced seed production in one year.

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