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Mimics and magnets: the importance of color and ecological facilitation in floral deception

Peter, Craig I., Johnson, Steven D.
Ecology 2008 v.89 no.6 pp. 1583-1595
Campanulaceae, Halictidae, Orchidaceae, color, flowering, inflorescences, models, pollination, pollinators, reflectance, solitary bees, sunscreens, surveys, sympatry, vision
Plants that lack floral rewards can attract pollinators if they share attractive floral signals with rewarding plants. These deceptive plants should benefit from flowering in close proximity to such rewarding plants, because pollinators are locally conditioned on floral signals of the rewarding plants (mimic effect) and because pollinators are more abundant close to rewarding plants (magnet effect). We tested these ideas using the non‐rewarding South African plant Eulophia zeyheriana (Orchidaceae) as a study system. Field observations revealed that E. zeyheriana is pollinated solely by solitary bees belonging to a single species of Lipotriches (Halictidae) that appears to be closely associated with the flowers of Wahlenbergia cuspidata (Campanulaceae), a rewarding plant with which the orchid is often sympatric. The pale blue color of the flowers of E. zeyheriana differs strongly from flowers of its congeners, but is very similar to that of flowers of W. cuspidata. Analysis of spectral reflectance patterns using a bee vision model showed that bees are unlikely to be able to distinguish the two species in terms of flower color. A UV‐absorbing sunscreen was applied to the flowers of the orchid in order to alter their color, and this resulted in a significant decline in pollinator visits, thus indicating the importance of flower color for attraction of Lipotriches bees. Pollination success in the orchid was strongly affected by proximity to patches of W. cuspidata. This was evident from one of two surveys of natural populations of the orchid, as well as experiments in which we translocated inflorescences of the orchid either into patches of W. cuspidata or 40 m outside such patches. Flower color and location of E. zeyheriana plants relative to rewarding magnet patches are therefore key components of the exploitation by this orchid of the relationship between W. cuspidata and Lipotriches bee pollinators.