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Spatially contingent interactions between an exotic and native plant mediated through flower visitors


  • Daniel P. Cariveau,

  • Andrew P. Norton

D. P. Cariveau ( and A. P. Norton, Dept of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.


Exotic plants can negatively impact the fitness of native plants by changing the behavior of flower visitors and thus affecting pollen transfer. The presence of an exotic plant may decrease the visitation rate to native plants and thus increase pollen limitation. Flower visitors may also switch between exotic and native plants and if pollen from an exotic plant is transferred to native plant stigmas this may impede siring by conspecific pollen. As flower visitors forage within a spatial context, the distribution of plants may affect the type and magnitude of pollinator-mediated competition. In this study we examined two questions: 1) does the exotic plant, Carduus nutans (Asteraceae) interact with the native Monarda fistulosa (Lamiaceae) through flower visitors by changing visitation rate and/or through heterospecific pollen transfer, and does this affect seed set of the native plant? 2) Does spatial context affect how the native and exotic plants interact through flower visitors? We created plots containing potted M. fistulosa with and without the presence of potted C. nutans. In the presence of C. nutans, M. fistulosa stigmas had significantly fewer conspecific and more C. nutans pollen grains. Visitation rate and seed set tended to be lower in these invaded plots, however they were not significant. In a second experiment, we examined whether changes in visitation rate to M. fistulosa due to the presence of C. nutans was a function of M. fistulosa distance from C. nutans. We found that visitation rate did not decrease in the presence of C. nutans when M. fistulosa were adjacent to C. nutans or 15 meters from C. nutans. However, floral visitation rate to M. fistulosa decreased at 1 and 5 meters from C. nutans. Our results suggest interactions between plant species through flower visitors may depend on spatial scale.