Background and Aims
Delayed self-pollination is a mechanism that allows animal-pollinated plants to outcross while ensuring seed production in the absence of pollinators. This study aims to explore a new mechanism of delayed self-pollination facilitated by wind-driven corolla abscission in Incarvillea sinensis var. sinensis.
Floral morphology and development, and the process of delayed self-pollination were surveyed. Experiments dealing with pollinator and wind exclusion, pollination manipulations, and pollinator observations were conducted in the field.
Delayed self-pollination occurs when the abscising corolla driven by wind drags the adherent epipetalous stamens, thus leading to contact of anthers with stigma in late anthesis. There is no dichogamy and self-incompatibility in this species. The significantly higher proportion of abscised corolla under natural conditions as compared with that in wind-excluding tents indicates the importance of wind in corolla abscission. When pollinators were excluded, corolla abscission significantly increased the number of pollen grains deposited on the stigma and, as a result, the fruit and seed set. Only half of the flowers in plots were visited by pollinators, and the fruit set of emasculated flowers was significantly lower than that of untreated flowers in open pollination. This species has a sensitive stigma, and its two open stigmatic lobes closed soon after being touched by a pollinator, but always reopened if no or only little pollen was deposited.
This delayed self-pollination, which involved the movement of floral parts, the active participation of the wind and sensitive stigma, is quite different from that reported previously. This mechanism provides reproductive assurance for this species. The sensitive stigma contributes to ensuring seed production and reducing the interference of selfing with outcrossing. The pollination pattern, which combines actions by bees with indirect participation by wind, is also a new addition to ambophily.