Evolutionary Ecology, 1996, 10, 653-660

Effects of pollinia removal and insertion on flower longevity in Chloraea alpina (Orchidaceae) S O N I A C L A Y T O N and M A R C E L O A. A I Z E N * Departamento de EcoIogfa, Universidad NacionaI del Comahue, Centro Regional Baritoche, Unidad Postal Universidad, (8400) San Carlos de Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentina

Summary Although it is known that stigmatic pollen deposition may trigger early flower senescence, the existence of a similar plastic response of flower lifespan to pollen removal has been much less studied. Here we report on a factorial, manipulative experiment in which all 2 x 2 flower combinations of pollinia removal and stigmatic pollinia insertion were performed in inflorescences of the Patagonian ground orchid Chloraea aipina. This experiment was conducted in the laboratory, in a population of cut inflorescences and in the field. We hypothesized that if expected fitness gains, through both the male and female functions, were weighed against the costs of flower maintenance, then early flower senescence should be triggered by either pollinia removal or insertion. The shortest flower lifespan would be expected in flowers where both processes occurred. Results showed that flower longevity was very strongly affected by pollinia insertion, reducing the flower lifespan by approximately 60%. The response of pollinia removal was much weaker. A significant reduction in flower longevity caused by pollinia removal was only detected in unpollinated flowers (i.e. no pollinia inserted). Within the racemose inflorescences, flowers in basal positions lived longer than flowers in terminal ones, which might be evidence of the importance of resource availability in determining maximum flower longevity. The observed responses of flower lifespan plasticity to pollinia manipulation only partially supported our expectations based on fitness benefit-cost relationships. Other factors that might explain these discrepancies are the different fitness gains that may indeed accrue to the processes of pollinia removal and insertion as they occur in nature, donor manipulation of the recipient flower lifespan associated with the evolution of pollen clustering into pollinia and physiological constraints in terms of the extent to which flower longevity may respond to pollen removal.

Keywords: orchids; flower longevity; phenotypic plasticity; pollinia manipulation Introduction Many floral characters influence not only pollen receipt and seed set but also pollen export and the number of seeds sired in the same or other plants. This suggests that traits that influence pollinator attraction and reward might have evolved in order to increase plant fitness through both their female and male components. Study traits include flower size, shape, number, scent, colour and nectar production (see Willson, 1994, for a recent review). Flower longevity is another key character that may help determine floral reproductive success in terms of the amount of pollen removed from the anthers or deposited on the stigma, particularly when the frequency of pollinator visits is low (Primack, 1985). However, it is not very well known how much the achievement of reproductive success through the male function (i.e. pollen removal), in comparison with the female function (i.e. pollen receipt), may have contributed to the evolution of flower longevity. * To whom correspondence should be addressed. 0269-7653

© 1996 Chapman & Hall


Clayton and Aizen

Although the mean flower lifespan differs between taxa on a scale that ranges from a few hours to several weeks, a great deal of within-species phenotypic variation exists in flower longevity (Primack, 1985). In particular, in many plant species stigmatic pollen deposition triggers early flower senescence when compared with unpollinated controls (e.g. Schemske et al., 1978; Devlin and Stephenson, 1984; Richardson and Stephenson, 1989; Gregg, 1991; Preston, 1991; Aizen, 1993), suggesting that the physiological costs associated with flower maintenance (i.e. respiration, water losses, nectar secretion, etc.) outweigh any advantage an extra open flower may have, once it becomes pollinated (Primack, 1985; Ashman and Schoen, 1994). However, as fitness gains for co-sexual flowers occur through both pollen exportation and pollen receipt, similar adaptive plastic responses of the flower lifespan to pollen removal might be expected. Examples are provided by protandrous Lobelia cardinalis (Devlin and Stephenson, 1984) and Campanula rapunculoides (Richardson and Stephenson, 1989) in which the length of the male phase is significantly shortened by high levels of pollen removal. However, even in co-sexual flowers with no temporal separation of sexual phases, pollen removal is not necessarily associated with stigmatic pollen receipt (Wilson and Thomson, 1991). This opens the possibility for the evolution of lifespan plasticity in response to independent selective pressures on the male and female components of a flower's reproductive success in these species. Yet very little is known about the comparative effects of pollen removal and deposition on flower lifespan in co-sexual flowers that mature both stigmas and anthers simultaneously. Here we manipulated pollen removal and deposition in flowers of Chloraea alpina P6ppig, a Patagonian ground orchid, to measure the extent to which success in the male in comparison with the female function may affect subsequent flower lifespan. Orchid flowers are excellent models to address experimentally questions on the determinants of flower longevity because the flower lifespan is naturally long and in most orchids pollen is grouped together in dispersal units called pollinia, which are easy to manipulate (Dressier, 1990; Nilsson, 1992; Tremblay, 1992). Materials and methods

Chloraea alpina is a non-autogamous, self-compatible, nectarless orchid that occurs in sandy, dry slopes across Patagonia. Each spring, flowering plants produce usually one, rarely more, loose racemose inflorescences displaying one to nine yellow-orange flowers. This orchid is mainly pollinated by deceiving bumblebee queens and small solitary bees and flies which seek refuge in the flowers. Flowers open more or less simultaneously and last up to 3 weeks. Each flower bears two pollinia. In natural populations, only a small fraction (usually < 10%) of all the flowers at senescence have had one or both pollinia removed and a smaller fraction (usually < 5%) have had pollinia inserted into the stigmatic cavity. In nature, flowers are found at senescence (1) without pollinia removed or inserted, (2) with one or two pollinia removed only, (3) with one or two pollinia inserted only and (4) with both pollinia removed and inserted. This implies that pollinia removal may be largely decoupled from pollinia insertion. Experimentally, fully pollinated individuals approach 100% fruit set (M.A. Aizen and S. Clayton, in preparation). In the austral spring of 1993, we harvested a total of 52 fresh-looking, virgin inflorescences (n = 159 flowers) from a population 15 km south of San Carlos de Bariloche (41°8 ' S, 71019 ' W). Cut inflorescences were transported promptly to the laboratory, numbered and placed in vials containing tap water. One of the 2 x 2 treatment combinations of pollinia removal and insertion was applied to individual flowers immediately. Treatments were (1) no manipulation (control), (2) pollinia removed only, (3) pollinia inserted only and (4) pollinia both removed and inserted. Our observations suggest that insect-mediated pollinia transfer within flowers is probably

Effects of pollinia removal and insertion on flower longevity


the most common mechanism that may produce flowers in nature with pollinia both removed and inserted, while pollinia transfer either within- or between-inflorescences may lead to flowers which at senescence have had pollinia inserted only (M.A. Aizen and S. Clayton, in preparation). For the two treatments that involved pollination, we inserted the two removed pollinia of the same flower (treatment 4) or the two pollinia from flowers of the same or other inflorescences (treatment 3). We did not include the pollinia origin as a separate factor in the data analyses, however, as there were no apparent differences in terms of the subsequent flower lifespan (or fruit abortion and seed set) whether the pollinia inserted were self- or out-cross. Pollinia removal from the column and insertion into the stigmatic cavity were gently performed with a pair of fine forceps, trying not to disturb any other flower structure. Experimental inflorescences had between two and eight flowers. We applied haphazardly a different 'treatment x flower position' permutation to each individual inflorescence. Each of the four different treatments was represented at least once (and at most twice) in inflorescences with four or more flowers. Inflorescences with less than four flowers represented incomplete 'blocks' as all four treatments could not be applied to single inflorescences. Flowers were checked every 12 h until the end of the flower lifespan. Flower senescence was marked by the closure of the perianth mouth, followed by perianth wilting. The number of days until perianth closure was considered as an estimate of post-treatment flower longevity. An identical experimental protocol was applied in the field to 49 fresh-looking, virgin inflorescences (n = 210 flowers) of a C. alpina population that occurred 13 km west of San Carlos de Bariloche. Flowers were checked every day for perianth closure. As pollinators were not excluded, the few flowers in which pollinia were identified as being either removed or inserted by natural agents were not included in the final data set. Data were analysed with a three-way ANOVA in which we included pollinia removal, pollinia insertion and flower position as the main factors. Given that inflorescences differ in the number of flowers, 'position' was defined as a two-class factor. Flowers were classified as 'basal' if they occupied the lower half positions within the inflorescences and as 'top' if they occupied the upper half positions. The middle position in inflorescences with an odd number of flowers was classified as basal. Reclassifying this position as top did not qualitatively change any of our results. The inflorescence identity was included as a blocking factor. Because the data sets were unbalanced, we based the significance test on type III sums of squares (SAS Institute Inc., 1988). Pairwise differences between least-squares-adjusted means (i.e. means adjusted by the differences in the number of observations per cell) were evaluated by a t-test using a significance level of = 0.01 for each pair of comparisons to approximate an overall experiment-wise error rate of 0.05. All statistical analyses were carried out using the GLM procedure of the SAS Institute Inc. (1988).

Results Flower longevity was significant and strongly affected by pollinia insertion in both cut inflorescences in the laboratory and uncut inflorescences in the field (Table 1). Pollination (i.e. pollinia insertion) shortened the flower lifespan in both the laboratory and in the field by - 6 0 % (Fig. 1). On the other hand, the effect of pollinia removal was weaker and non-significant overall. However, in the laboratory as well as in the field, this effect varied depending on whether flowers were pollinated or not (significant removal × insertion interaction; Table 1). While no effect of pollinia removal was observed in pollinated flowers, pollinia removal significantly shortened the flower lifespan in the laboratory as well as in the field by - 2 0 % in flowers where pollinia had

Clayton and Aizen


Table 1. Three-way ANOVA of the effects of pollinia 'removal', pollinia 'insertion' and flower 'position' on the number of days until perianth closure for the laboratory experiment (i.e. cut inflorescences) and field experiment (intact plants). 'Inflorescence' was included as a blocking factor Laboratory Source



Removal (R) Insertion (I) Position (P) R x I R x P I x P R x I x P Inflorescence Error

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 51 130

11.743 807.334 51.817 36.769 10.393 1.435 2.875 621.971 592.277

Field F


2.58 177.20 11.37 8.07 2.28 0.32 0.63

0.11 < 0.0001 0.001 0.005 0.13 0.58 0.42



1 1 1 1 1 1 1 48 150

13.540 1199.332 124.824 40.800 0.167 110.462 1.564 1040.626 1433.734



1.42 125.48 13.06 4.27 0.02 11.56 0.16

0.24 < 0.0001 0.0004 0.04 0.89 0.0009 0.68

not been inserted. For all treatment categories, the flower longevity was longer in the field than in the laboratory (Fig. 1). The flower longevity was significantly affected by its position within the inflorescence (Table 1). Flowers in basal positions lived significantly longer than flowers in top positions (2 _+ SE = 5.5 -- 0.22 versus 4.3 -- 0.25 days for the laboratory and 7.1 - 0.30 versus 5.5 --- 0.35 days for the field experiment). Although a significant position x insertion interaction was recorded in the field (Table 1), a reduction in flower longevity due to pollinia insertion was recorded in the basal as well as the top flowers (.~ --- SE = 10.5 + 0.44 versus 3.7 _+ 0.43 days for basal and 7.2 0.46 versus 3.8 --- 0.52 days for top flowers).


12 B) Field

A) Laboratory

~ 10-

~10 a


g¢ - a .


b 7--





~ 4.



,7- 2. 0

~8> g6-











~ 4-







,7- 2. 0



Figure 1. Least-squares-adjusted means (_+ SE) of flower lifespan for the 2 × 2 categories of pollinia removal and insertion for (A) the laboratory experiment (cut inflorescences) and (B) the field experiment. --, no pollinia removed, no pollinia inserted (control); R-, pollinia removed, no pollinia inserted; -I, no pollinia removed, pollinia inserted; RI, pollinia removed, pollinia inserted. For each experiment the adjusted means that share the same lowercase letter do not differ significantly at p > 0.01 (t-test).

Effects of pollinia removal and insertion on flower longevity



From an adaptationist evolutionary perspective, flower lifespan may be expected to be determined by a benefit-cost balance between fitness gain rates in terms of pollen export and import versus flower maintenance costs (Ashman and Schoen, 1994). A shortening in flower lifespan after completion of either the male or female function would constitute evidence for the existence of adaptive plasticity. Flowers that had all their pollen removed and that received enough pollen for full seed set right after anthesis would be predicted to exhibit the shortest flower lifespan, if no other indirect fitness benefit accrued to these flowers (Weiss, 1995). Our results partially support these predictions. Although the flower lifespan in C. alpina was strongly affected by pollinia insertion, pollinia removal significantly shortened the flower lifespan only in unpollinated flowers and to a much lesser extent than the effect triggered by pollinia insertion (Fig. 1). Flowers that underwent both simultaneous pollinia removal and insertion did not differ in flower longevity in comparison with flowers in which pollinia were inserted but not removed (Fig. 1) Differences in the likelihood of pollinia removal and deposition have been recently advanced to explain the triggering of floral senescence by pollinia deposition, but not by pollinia removal, in orchid flowers of Calypso bulbosa (Proctor and Harder, 1995). These authors proposed that the cue used may indicate which of the two functions, male or female, is less easily satisfied. If pollen removal is common but deposition rare, as seems to happen in most deceptive orchids (Proctor and Harder, 1995), then a flower that senesces after pollen deposition will most likely have had at least some pollen removed. Thus, success in the female function will also predict success in the male function, but not the opposite. However, it is not clear why flowers should evolve a cost-saving mechanism almost exclusively in response to female success in species such as C. alpina where, despite higher rates of pollinia removal than deposition, approximately 40% of the flowers with pollinia inserted do not have their own pollinia removed by the end of their lives (M.A. Aizen and S. Clayton, in preparation). Without disregarding this explanation, in what follows we introduce some other considerations that might underlie the observed discrepancies in the strength and shape of the response of the flower lifespan to pollinia removal and pollinia insertion in C. alpina. First, because pollen removal by pollinators does not ensure export to the stigmas of the same or other flowers (Wilson and Thomson, 1991; Stanton et al., 1992; Wilson et al., 1994), pollen removal and deposition may not be equivalent in terms of fitness benefits. While in C. aIpina pollinia insertion almost certainly leads to fruit maturation, about half of the pollinia removed are wasted and do not land in the same or other flowers' stigmas (M.A. Aizen and S. Clayton, in preparation). This would predict a higher marginal benefit-cost relationship (i.e. how much fitness remains to be gained) and longer subsequent flower lifespan for an unpollinated flower which has its pollinia removed, than for a flower which has been pollinated but has its pollinia in place. This hypothesis does not explain why pollinated flowers should have equal longevity whether the pollinia have been removed or not. It is possible, however, that there is a physiological limit to how fast floral senescence can proceed, which could account for the lack of difference between pollinated flowers with and without pollinia removed. Second, male-male competition has been invoked in the evolution of pollen grouping in orchids (Willson, 1979). Export of pollen as pollinia ensures, once a virgin stigma is reached, the pre-emption of all the ovules by only one successful donor. Ovule pre-emption by a single donor will be further secured by inducing the triggering of quick flower senescence, thus avoiding the insertion of a second pollinia even if this conflicts with the 'interest' of the recipient flower. In this way, the strong shortening of the lifespan of a C. alpina flower observed after pollinia insertion, in comparison to pollinia removal, may be under donor rather than recipient control.


Clayton and Aizen

This could explain why pollinated flowers last approximately the same time whether the pollinia have been removed or not. However, given the extremely low frequency of pollinator visits experienced by C. alpina (but not necessarily in other deceitful orchids; see e.g. Fritz and Nilsson, 1994), the chance that two or more pollinia from different donors would be inserted into the same stigmatic cavity by independent pollination events, even in a period of weeks, is too remote to represent a strong selective force (cf. Herrera, 1993). We cannot discard the possibility that, as with many other singular traits in the Orchidaceae, donor control of the flower lifespan may be a characteristic intrinsically associated with the evolution of pollen grouping, being fixed along entire orchid lineages (Dressier, 1990; Tremblay, 1992). Physiological evidence also suggests that the hormonal content of the pollinia may trigger early senescence in pollinated orchid flowers (Arditti and Flick, 1976). A comparison of the magnitude by which the flower lifespan is shortened by pollination in taxa where pollen is exported in clusters (i.e. polyads and pollinia) and their closest representatives where loose pollen is exported, may provide evidence for the existence of pollen-donor manipulation of the flower lifespan associated with the pollen grouping habit. Lastly, because of the flower design and function, the physiological signals provided by pollen removal are weaker and less numerous than those associated with pollen deposition onto the stigma. While in most species loose pollen is removed from dehisced anthers, potentially providing few and weak physiological cues, pollen deposition involves several post-pollination events (e.g. pollen germination, tube growth, gamete discharge, fertilization and embryo development), each able to provide strong physiological signals that may modify many flower attributes, including the flower lifespan. Interestingly, the two cases known to us of a strong shortening of flower longevity associated with pollen removal, are exemplified by species with secondary pollen presentation, in which sensitive trichomes are involved in the process of pollen delivery (Devlin and Stephenson, 1984; Richardson and Stephenson, 1989). Pollinia are also structures that maintain close contact with other flower structures (i.e. the column) and are potentially able to trigger physiological changes when detached. In studies by Arditti and coworkers (Arditti and Flick, 1976; Arditti and Harrison, 1979) on the physiological changes associated with pollinia removal and insertion in orchid flowers of Cymbidium hybrids, they found that while pollination causes the full repertoire of hormone-mediated post-pollination phenomena, pollinia removal may by itself cause at least certain post-pollination-like phenomena. These findings may not only explain differences in the strength of the effects of pollinia removal and insertion on the flower lifespan in C. alpina, but also the non-additive nature of these effects (Fig. 1). In this way, the flower design and function and the associated physiological processes may constrain any expected 'optimal' response of flower longevity to pollen removal and deposition based on marginal fitness returns. The existence of physiological constraints affecting flower lifespan may be further illustrated by the differences in longevity observed between the basal and top flowers. It is very plausible that the longer lifespan of the basal flowers might be due to their greater access and pre-emption capacity of water, nutrients and carbohydrates. As exemplified by the fact that similar position effects were found in cut inflorescences in the laboratory and uncut ones in the field, this resource gradient may even be established prior to anthesis. A decade after the publication of Primack's (1985) review, we still know relatively little of the causes underlying genetic and plastic variation in flower longevity. A recent attempt to apply an evolutionary stable strategy model (Ashman and Schoen, 1994) to explain large-scale differences in flower longevity succeeded in describing the overall qualitative trend, but significant species to species variation still remained unexplained. We feel that some of the factors discussed here, inspired by the empirical results of both simultaneous and independent manipulation

Effects of pollinia removal and insertion on flower longevi~


of pollen removal and stigmatic deposition in a single species, may help to improve our understanding of the causes underlying the variation in flower longevity within and between species.

Acknowledgements This project was supported by the International Foundation for Science (Grant No. D/1700-2 to M.A.A) and the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientfficas y Ttcnicas of Argentina (CONICET). We thank C. Ezcurra, L. Galetto, A. Premoli, A. Ruggiero and M. Willson for detailed revision and useful comments. We are grateful to the Delegaci6n Ttcnica Regional Patagonia of the Administracitn de Parques Nacionales for allowing us to conduct research within the Nahuel Huapi National Park.

References Aizen, M.A. (1993) Self-pollination shortens flower lifespan in Portulaca umbraticola H.B.K. (Portulacaceae). Int. J. Plant Sci. 154, 412-15. Arditti, J. and Flick, C.R. (1976) Post-pollination phenomena in orchid flowers. VI. Excised floral segments of Cymbidium. Am. J. Bot. 63, 201-11. Arditti, J. and Harrison, C.R. (1979) Post-pollination phenomena in orchid flowers. VII. Water and dry weight relations. Bot. Gaz. 140, 133-7. Ashman, T.L. and Schoen, D.J. (1994) How long should flowers live? Nature 371, 788-90. Devlin, B. and Stephenson, A.G. (1984) Factors that influence the duration of the staminate and pistillate phases of Lobelia cardinalis flowers. Bot. Gaz. 145, 323-8. Dressier, R.L. (1990) The Orchids. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Fritz, A.L. and Nilsson, L.A. (1994) How pollinator-mediated mating varies with population size in plants. Oecologia 100, 452-62. Gregg, K.B. (1991) Reproductive strategy of Cleistes divaricata (Orchidaceae). Am. J. Bot. 78, 350-60. Herrera, C.M. (1993) Selection on floral morphology and environmental determinants of fecundity in a hawkmoth-pollinated violet. Ecol. Monogr. 63, 251-76. Nilsson, L.A. (1992) Orchid pollination biology. Trends Ecol. Evol. 7, 255-59. Preston, R.E. (1991) The intrafloral phenology of Streptanthus tortuosus (Brassicaceae). Am. J. Bot. 78, 1044-53. Primack, R.B. (1985) Longevity of individual flowers. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 16, 15-37. Proctor, H.C. and Harder, L.D. (1995) Effect of pollination success on floral longevity in the orchid Calypso bulbosa (Orchidaceae). Am. J. Bot. 82, 1131-6. Richardson, T.E. and Stephenson, A.G. (1989) Pollen removal and pollen deposition affect the duration of the staminate and pistillate phases in Campanula rapunculoides. Am. J. Bot. 76, 532-8. SAS Institute Inc. (1988) SAS/STAT User's Guide. Release 6.03 Ed. SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC. Schemske, D.W., Willson, M.F., Melampy, M.N., Schemske, K.M. and Best, L.B. (1978) Flowering ecology of some spring woodland herbs. Ecology 59, 351-66. Stanton, M.L., Ashman, T.L., Galloway, L.F. and Young, H.J. (1992) Estimating male fitness of plants in natural populations. In Ecology and Evolution of Plant Reproduction: New Approaches (R. Wyatt, ed.), pp. 62-90. Chapman & Hall, New York. Tremblay, R.L. (1992) Trends in pollination ecology of the Orchidaceae: evolution and systematics. Can. J. Bot. 70, 642-50. Weiss, M.R. (1995) Floral color change: a widespread functional convergence. Am. J. Bot. 82, 167-85. Willson, M.F. (1979) Sexual selection in plants. Am. Nat. 113, 777-90.


Clayton and Aizen

Willson, M.F. (1994) Sexual selection in plants: perspective and overview. Am. Nat. 144 (Suppl.), S1339. Wilson, P. and Thomson, J.D. (1991) Heterogeneity among floral visitors leads to discordance between removal and deposition of pollen. Ecology 72, 1503-6. Wilson, P., Thomson, J.D., Stanton, M.L. and Rigney, L.P. (1994) Beyond floral batemania: gender biases in selection for pollination success. Am. Nat. 143, 283-96.

Chloraea alpina - Springer Link

Many floral characters influence not only pollen receipt and seed set but also pollen export and the number of seeds sired in the .... inserted by natural agents were not included in the final data set. Data were analysed with a ..... Ashman, T.L. and Schoen, D.J. (1994) How long should flowers live? Nature 371, 788-90. Devlin ...

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