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Keywords:

  • Linaceae;
  • Linum tenuifolium L.;
  • heterostyly-pollen flow

The function of distyly as a device promoting inter-morph pollination was proposed by Darwin over a century ago, though only recently have experimental studies been undertaken to test this hypothesis. These studies are unrealistic since they assume regular spatial distribution of morphs within a population and fail to consider intra-flower pollination in assessing distyly's effects. Pollen flow in two populations of Linum tenuifolium L. was investigated using a fluorescent-dye marker technique. One population was dimorphic and self-incompatible; the other was monomorphic and self-compatible. In both populations pollen dispersal was leptokurtic with over 75% of grains detected within 5 m from the source. Intra-flower pollinations comprised a large proportion of individual stigma loads (42% for the dimorphic form; 49% for the monomorphic form). Total stigmatic loads for the dimorphic population showed equal proportions of pin and thrum pollen on both long-style and short-style stigmas, though variation in individual loads was marked. Values ranging from 34.2 to 61.5% legitimate pollen were recorded. The irregular distribution of morphs observed at the dimorphic site will reduce the efficiency of heterostyly as a device promoting intermorph pollination. The reduction in intra-flower pollination suggests adaptive significance of this floral dimorphism in increasing the efficiency of pollen dispersal to the individual.