Nutrient versus pollination limitation in Platanthera bifolia and Dactylorhiza incarnata (Orchidaceae)


  • Elisa Mattila,

  • Markku T. Kuitunen

E. Mattila and M. T. Kuitunen, Dept of Biological and Environmental Science, Univ. of Jyväskylä, P.O. Box 35, FIN-40351 Jyväskylä, Finland (


Availability of resources and pollination services have been demonstrated to have impact on reproductive success in some orchid species, but to our knowledge no studies have examined the effects of nutrient application and pollination limitation in the same experiment. In this study, factors limiting reproductive success were studied with two terrestrial orchid species in Central Finland during 1996 and 1997. In a field experiment using a factorial design, plants of nectar-producing Platanthera bifolia and nectarless Dactylorhiza incarnata were treated with nutrient application and hand-pollination. Inflorescence size was considered as an indicator of attractiveness to pollinators as well as of the general condition of the plant. In 1996, fertilizer treatment increased relative capsule production in P. bifolia plants with small inflorescences, indicating poorer store of resources in the underground corm and dependence on nutrient availability during capsule maturation, which was not found in large plants. Hand-pollination and large inflorescence size in P. bifolia did not affect capsule initiation, but increased the proportion of mature capsules. P. bifolia may thus be regarded as both resource- and pollination-limited within a year. Pollination success was observed to be the only factor limiting reproduction of the nectarless D. incarnata within a year, because hand-pollination increased capsule production, and there were no significant effects of fertilizer treatment or inflorescence size in 1996. Capsule production in 1996 did not affect the probability of P. bifolia flowering in the following year, while high capsule production decreased the subsequent probability of flowering in D. incarnata. Species with different pollination strategies differed in the use of resources. The nectar-producing P. bifolia had a lower fruit/flower ratio than the nectarless D. incarnata, also after hand-pollination.