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Comparative floral biology of Rhynchospora ciliata (Vahl) Kukenth and R. pubera (Vahl) Boeckeler (Cyperaceae): the role of white involucral bracts in attracting pollinating insects

Costa, Ana C.G., Thomas, William W., Machado, Isabel C.
Plant species biology 2017 v.32 no.4 pp. 403-411
Rhynchospora, anthers, autogamy, bees, bracts, flowering, interspecific competition, pollen, pollinating insects, pollination, reproductive success, sympatry, ultraviolet radiation, wind
Although Cyperaceae are considered anemophilous, some species exhibit features that are attractive to pollinators, such as the white UV‐reflecting involucral bracts of Rhynchospora ciliata. But how effective are these conspicuous adaptations? To address this question, we tested the hypothesis that species such as R. ciliata are visited by greater numbers of pollinating insects than similar species with green involucral bracts, such as R. pubera. We compared the floral biology of both species and the number of visits to sympatric populations of each species, associating them with the availability of pollen and the pollination system. We verified that species with white involucral bracts are preferred, because there were more visits to R. ciliata in the first 2 h the flowers were open. The peak visitation in R. pubera was 2 h after the flowers opened, when the pollen of R. ciliata was exhausted. Although the involucral bracts of R. pubera are green, the spikelet scales and anthers are white and reflect ultraviolet light. Overall, flowers of R. pubera exhibit fewer white or reflective surfaces and are probably less conspicuous to a bee than those of R. ciliata. It is possible that R. pubera is a second option for visitors after the first 2 h of anthesis. The two different peaks in visitation minimize interspecific competition for pollinators, suggesting that R. ciliata and R. pubera together could attract more generalist pollinators and, instead of competing, facilitate the pollination of both species. Although R. pubera is autogamous and self‐compatible, both wind and insects are important to its reproductive success.