• Apis mellifera adansonii;
  • breeding system;
  • flowering synchrony;
  • fruit and seed set;
  • insect pollination;
  • mixed mating system;
  • nectar production;
  • semelparity


Synchronous monocarpy in long-lived plants is often associated with pollination by wind, in part because infrequent mass flowering may satiate pollinators. Selfing in synchronous monocarps may provide reproductive assurance but conflict with the benefits of outcrossing, a key evolutionary driver of synchrony. We predicted that animal-pollinated species with synchronous flowering would have unspecialised flowers and attract abundant generalised pollinators, but predictions for selfing and outcrossing frequencies were not obvious. We examined the pollination biology of Isoglossa woodii (Acanthaceae), an insect-pollinated, monocarpic herb that flowers synchronously at 4–7-year intervals. The most frequent visitor to I. woodii flowers was the African honeybee, Apis mellifera adansonii. Hand-pollination failed to enhance seed production, indicating that the pollinators were not saturated. No seed was set in the absence of pollinators. Seed set was similar among selfed and outcrossed flowers, demonstrating a geitonogamous mixed-mating strategy with no direct evidence of preferential outcrossing. Flowers contained four ovules, but most fruits only developed one seed, raising the possibility that preferential outcrossing occurs by post-pollination processes. We argue that a number of the theoretical concerns about geitonogamous selfing as a form of reproductive assurance do not apply to a long-lived synchronous monocarp such as I. woodii.