Pollen limitation, seed predation and scape length in Primula farinosa


  • Johan Ehrlén,

  • Sofia Käck,

  • Jon Ågren

J. Ehrlén, Dept of Botany, Stockholm Univ., SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden (ehrlen@botan.su.se). – S. Käck and J. Ågren, Dept of Plant Ecology, EBC, Uppsala Univ., Villavägen 14, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.


Floral display and reward production may affect the attractiveness of a plant to a range of interacting animals including pollinators, herbivores, and vectors of pathogenic fungi. The optimal floral phenotype should therefore depend on the relative importance of selection exerted by both mutualistic and antagonistic animals. The perennial, rosette herb Primula farinosa is polymorphic for scape length. Natural populations may include both plants with flowers displayed well above the ground (the long-scaped morph) and those with flowers positioned very close to the ground (the short-scaped morph). In this study, we conducted a field experiment to examine how the relative fitness of the two scape morphs is affected by interactions with pollinators and fruit predators in two different microhabitats (high and low vegetation). As predicted based on the difference in floral display, supplemental hand-pollination showed that fruit initiation was more strongly pollen-limited in the short-scaped than in the long-scaped morph, and that this difference was significantly larger in high than in low vegetation. Moreover, plants with a short scape experienced lower levels of fruit predation than plants with a long scape. Among open-pollinated controls, there was no significant difference in seed output between the two scape morphs. However, among plants receiving supplemental hand-pollination, short-scaped plants produced significantly more seeds than long-scaped plants. The results suggest that the positive and negative effects of a prominent floral display (increased pollination and seed predation, respectively) balance in the study population, but also that the short-scaped morph would have an advantage at higher pollination intensities. Spatial and temporal variation in pollinator activity and seed predation should result in associated variation in the relative fecundity of the two scape morphs.