Local plant density, pollination and trait–fitness relationships in a perennial herb


  • Editor
    A. Dafni

Anne Weber, Vegetation Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Ecology, University of Bremen, Leobener Str., D-28359 Bremen, Germany.
E-mail: annweber@uni-bremen.de


Both differences in local plant density and phenotypic traits may affect pollination and plant reproduction, but little is known about how density affects trait–fitness relationships via changes in pollinator activity. In this study we examined how plant density and traits interact to determine pollinator behaviour and female reproductive success in the self-incompatible, perennial herb Phyteuma spicatum. Specifically, we hypothesised that limited pollination service in more isolated plants would lead to increased selection for traits that attract pollinators. We conducted pollinator observations and assessed trait–fitness relationships in a natural population, whose individuals were surrounded by a variable number of inflorescences. Both local plant density and plant phenotypic traits affected pollinator foraging behaviour. At low densities, pollinator visitation rates were low, but increased with increasing inflorescence size, while this relationship disappeared at high densities, where visitation rates were higher. Plant fitness, in terms of seed production per plant and per capsule, was related to both floral display size and flowering time. Seed production increased with increasing inflorescence size and was highest at peak flowering. However, trait–fitness relationships were not density-dependent, and differences in seed production did not appear to be related to differences in pollination. The reasons for this remain unclear, and additional studies are needed to fully understand and explain the observed patterns.