1. The effects of defoliation and girdling on fruit production in European holly Ilex aquifolium were studied in a northern Spanish population. Three defoliation treatments (control, 50% and 100% leaf removal) were applied at branch level in 10 trees. Six branches were used per treatment in each tree and half of these branches were girdled (a ring of bark and cambium was removed from the branch base).
2. Leaf removal from ungirdled branches had little effect on fruit set, fruit production and reproductive allocation at branch level. However, these variables decreased as the extent of defoliation increased on girdled branches.
3. Fruit production in undefoliated branches did not differ between girdled and ungirdled branches, showing that girdled branches were autonomous for fruit production when undamaged. Mean fruit mass of girdled-100% defoliated branches averaged 8% of fruit mass produced by control branches.
4. Fruit production of ungirdled-100% defoliated branches did not differ from control branches, showing the importance of resource importation from other branches. Hence the branches may be regarded as only partially autonomous for fruit production.
5. Fruit production of girdled-50% defoliated branches was 42% of fruit production of control branches, while ungirdled-50% defoliated branches amounted to 70% of controls. These results also demonstrated resource importation but did not support the existence of photosynthetic compensatory mechanisms.
6. The ability of resource importation developed by fruiting branches might be a mechanism to reduce the effect of reproductive costs in this species.