Faculté des sciences

How is the invasive gorse Ulex europaeus pollinated during winter? A lesson from its native range

Bowman, Gillianne ; Tarayre, Michèle ; Atlan, Anne

In: Plant Ecology, 2008, vol. 197, no. 2, p. 197-206

Many examples of plant-insect interactions have shown that selection from herbivores can act on flowering and fruiting phenology. In Ulex europaeus (Fabaceae), escaping seed predation resulted in extended, but variable flowering periods, with some plants flowering from autumn until spring and others flowering only in spring. The present study aims at understanding how gorses can have a high... Plus

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    Summary
    Many examples of plant-insect interactions have shown that selection from herbivores can act on flowering and fruiting phenology. In Ulex europaeus (Fabaceae), escaping seed predation resulted in extended, but variable flowering periods, with some plants flowering from autumn until spring and others flowering only in spring. The present study aims at understanding how gorses can have a high reproductive success during winter despite harsh climatic conditions and low number of pollinators. We measured pollen production, flower size and seed production in spring and winter, and compared the different seasons. The pollination success of flowers was high in both seasons. The flowers produced as much pollen, and were of comparable size in spring and winter, but they stayed open twice as long in winter than in spring. The high pollination rate we observed was thus due to the longer opening period of flowers and the high attractiveness of flowers during winter. However, pod abortion was higher in winter, with 43% of the flowers in winter and 75% in spring producing ripe pods. Antagonistic selective pressures exerted by biotic and abiotic interactions may, therefore, have lead to the observed flowering polymorphism, and allow U. europaeus to thrive in various climates, thus, increasing its invasiveness in different countries.