PhD Candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University
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Does flowering time mediate interactions with shared pollinators?

Does flowering time mediate interactions with shared pollinators?


In many communities of closely related flowering plants, all species do not flower at the same time--typically flowering times are staggered over a season or period of time.

The four outcrossing Clarkia species in Kern County display a pattern of staggered flowering phenology: two species flower around the middle of May (C. unguiculata and C. cylindrica) and two other species flower in early June ( and C. xantiana and C. speciosa).

 
From left to right: C. unguiculata, C. cylindrica, C. xantiana, C. speciosa. The bars above the images represent the main flowering period for each species.

From left to right: C. unguiculata, C. cylindrica, C. xantiana, C. speciosa. The bars above the images represent the main flowering period for each species.

This pattern is often hypothesized to be an adaptation that reduces competition for pollinators among co-occurring species, but this hypothesis has rarely been tested in natural plant communities.

To determine if flowering time differences influence reproductive success in Clarkia, we manipulated the distribution of flowering times in natural communities using greenhouse-grown potted plants.

We grew individuals of the two late-flowering species (C. xantiana and C. speciosa) in pots, and then put sets of plants out at three types of communities: (1) communities with the two early-flowering species AND the late-flowering species added; (2) communities with the early-flowering species only; (3) communities with no Clarkia present.

We put plants out at these types of communities both (A) early in the flowering period, when these species do not flower naturally, and (B) late in the flowering period, when these species do flower naturally.

This work is in prep, so check back soon for the results of this study.