Florivory: the intersection of pollination and herbivory


  • Andrew C. McCall,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Population Biology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA
    2. Department of Biology, Denison University, Granville, OH 43023, USA
      * E-mail: mccalla@denison.edu
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  • Rebecca E. Irwin

    1. Department of Biology, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA
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* E-mail: mccalla@denison.edu


Plants interact with many visitors who consume a variety of plant tissues. While the consequences of herbivory to leaves and shoots are well known, the implications of florivory, the consumption of flowers prior to seed coat formation, have received less attention. Herbivory and florivory can yield different plant, population and community outcomes; thus, it is critical to distinguish between these two types of consumption. Here, we consider the ecological and evolutionary consequences of florivory. A growing number of studies recognize that florivory is common in natural systems and in some cases surpasses leaf herbivory in magnitude and impact. Florivores can affect male and female plant fitness via direct trophic effects and through altered pathways of species interactions. In particular, florivory can affect pollination and have consequences for plant mating and floral sexual system evolution. Plants are not defenceless against florivore damage. Concepts of resistance and tolerance can be applied to plant–florivore interactions. Moreover, extant theories of plant chemical defence, including optimal defence theory, growth rate hypothesis and growth differentiation–balance hypothesis, can be used to make testable predictions about when and how plants should defend flowers against florivores. The majority of the predictions remain untested, but they provide a theoretical foundation on which to base future experiments. The approaches to studying florivory that we outline may yield novel insights into floral and defence traits not illuminated by studies of pollination or herbivory alone.