Journal Article

Visibility vs. biomass in flowers: exploring corolla allocation in Mediterranean entomophilous plants

Javier Herrera

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 103, issue 7, pages 1119-1127
Published in print May 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcp046
Visibility vs. biomass in flowers: exploring corolla allocation in Mediterranean entomophilous plants

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

While pollinators may in general select for large, morphologically uniform floral phenotypes, drought stress has been proposed as a destabilizing force that may favour small flowers and/or promote floral variation within species.

Methods

The general validity of this concept was checked by surveying a taxonomically diverse array of 38 insect-pollinated Mediterranean species. The interplay between fresh biomass investment, linear size and percentage corolla allocation was studied. Allometric relationships between traits were investigated by reduced major-axis regression, and qualitative correlates of floral variation explored using general linear-model MANOVA.

Key Results

Across species, flowers were perfectly isometrical with regard to corolla allocation (i.e. larger flowers were just scaled-up versions of smaller ones and vice versa). In contrast, linear size and biomass varied allometrically (i.e. there were shape variations, in addition to variations in size). Most floral variables correlated positively and significantly across species, except corolla allocation, which was largely determined by family membership and floral symmetry. On average, species with bilateral flowers allocated more to the corolla than those with radial flowers. Plant life-form was immaterial to all of the studied traits. Flower linear size variation was in general low among conspecifics (coefficients of variation around 10 %), whereas biomass was in general less uniform (e.g. 200–400 mg in Cistus salvifolius). Significant among-population differences were detected for all major quantitative floral traits.

Conclusions

Flower miniaturization can allow an improved use of reproductive resources under prevailingly stressful conditions. The hypothesis that flower size reflects a compromise between pollinator attraction, water requirements and allometric constraints among floral parts is discussed.

Keywords: Allometry; biomass; corolla; drought; evolution; flower; Mediterranean; sclerophyllous; size; variation; water

Journal Article.  5624 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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