• aromatics;
  • natural selection;
  • phenotypic variation;
  • plant volatiles;
  • pollinator attraction;
  • syrphid flies;
  • terpenoids;
  • trait correlations


  • 1
    Patterns of floral scent are generally assumed to have been shaped by pollinator-mediated natural selection. However, while many studies document behavioural responses of pollinators to floral scent, few document the relationship between floral scent and fitness.
  • 2
    In this study, we explore the effect of variation in floral scent emission in colour polymorphic Hesperis matronalis on both pollinator visitation and seed fitness.
  • 3
    Using target inflorescences augmented with colour-specific floral scent extracts, we find that diurnal floral visitors significantly prefer night-scent extracts to non-augmented controls; inflorescences augmented with day-scent extracts receive an intermediate level of visits. Colour did not have a significant effect on visitation.
  • 4
    We characterized the relationship between natural variation in floral scent emission rate and seed production for plants under two settings: in small experimental arrays exposed to either day- or night-flying pollinators, and in wild populations exposed to all pollinators. In arrays, we found greater emission rate led to higher seed production, but only in plants exposed to day-flying pollinators. In contrast, we found a significant positive relationship between night-time floral emission rate and seed fitness in wild populations. In neither setting did floral anthocycanin concentration (colour) affect fitness.
  • 5
    This study reinforces the idea that scent-mediated pollinator visitation is an important component of plant fitness. Moreover, our results suggest that plants emitting more scent have higher fitness, although there is variation as to when this positive relationship occurs (i.e., at day or night). Research connecting floral scent and fitness is a necessary first step in understanding the evolution of floral scent.