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Competition versus facilitation: conspecific effects on pollinator visitation and seed set in the iris Lapeirousia oreogena

Authors

  • Steven D. Johnson,

    1. School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, Univ. of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg 3209, South Africa
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  • Hilke Hollens,

    1. School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, Univ. of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg 3209, South Africa
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  • Michael Kuhlmann

    1. School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, Univ. of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg 3209, South Africa
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S. D. Johnson, School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, Univ. of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg 3209, South Africa. E-mail:johnsonsd@ukzn.ac.za

Abstract

Ecological interactions between conspecific plants can range from facilitative to competitive depending on the spacing and abundance of individuals. Competitive interactions are expected when plants flower en-masse and availability of pollinators is limited. We tested this prediction using Lapeirousia oreogena, a mass-flowering South African iris that is pollinated by a single species of long-proboscid fly. Controlled hand-pollination experiments showed that L. oreogena is self-compatible, but reliant on pollinator visits for seed set. Seed production per flower showed a significant negative relationship with patch size (and the correlated measure of number of individuals per patch), but was not affected by flower density or distance to neighbouring patches. There was a tendency for fly abundance to increase with patch size, but the rate of visits to individual flowers by flies was not affected by patch size. Seed set of hand-pollinated flowers did not differ for plants in and out of dense patches, indicating that the large differences in seed set among patches were likely to reflect pollinator visits, rather than the genetic or physiological capacity of plants to produce seeds. The reduced fecundity of L. oreogena in large patches with a greater numbers of flowers is consistent with the idea that plants with highly specialized pollination systems can experience intra-specific competition for pollination.

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