Does lack of pollination extend flower life?
Across angiosperm species, the longevity of individual flowers can range from fixed to highly plastic. The orchid family is noteworthy for frequent reports of species in which flower lifespans are greatly prolonged if flowers are not pollinated. Less dramatic cases of pollination-induced senescence of anthesis have been reported for various species in other families, but such reports are scattered. Frequently, such findings are peripheral components of more general pollination studies. Because pollination-dependent plasticity can ameliorate phenological dislocations between plants and pollinators, it is worthwhile to conduct systematic surveys of its magnitude and taxonomic distribution. As a start, we report a set of experiments comparing the active lifespans of pollinated flowers to those of unpollinated controls in a set of nine species from a local subalpine flora. In all species, unpollinated flowers had longer mean times of receptiveness than pollinated ones, although the differences in means were often small. Three species exhibited significantly extended floral longevity in the absence of pollination.
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