Incomplete partitioning of pollinators by Linum suffruticosum and its coflowering congeners

Rocío Pérez-Barrales, W. Scott Armbruster

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Premise: Linum suffruticosum shows variations in pollinator fit, pollen pickup, and local pollinators that predict pollen deposition rates. The species often coflowers with other Linum species using the same pollinators. We investigated whether L. suffruticosum trait variation could be explained by local patterns of pollinator sharing and associated evolution to reduce interspecific pollen transfer. 

Methods: Pollinator observations were made in different localities (single species, coflowering with other congeners). Floral traits were measured to detect differences across populations and from coflowering species. Reproductive costs were quantified using interspecific hand pollinations and measures of pollen-tube formation, combined with observations of pollen arrival on stigmas and pollen-tube formation after natural pollination in allopatric and sympatric localities. 

Results: The size and identity of the most important pollinator of L. suffruticosum and whether there was pollinator sharing with coflowering species appeared to explain floral trait variation related to pollinator fit. The morphological overlap of the flowers of L. suffruticosum with those of coflowering species varied, depending on coflowering species identity. A post-pollination incompatibility system maintains reproductive isolation, but conspecific pollen-tube formation was lower after heterospecific pollination. Under natural pollination at sites of coflowering with congeners, conspecific pollen-tube formation was lower than at single-species localities. 

Conclusions: Trait variation in L. suffruticosum appears to respond to the most important local pollinator. Locally, incomplete pollinator partitioning might cause interspecific pollination, imposing reproductive costs. These reproductive costs may generate selection on floral traits for reduced morphological overlap with coflowering congeners, leading to the evolution of pollination ecotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16181
Number of pages21
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number6
Early online date15 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2023


  • character displacement
  • heterostyly
  • inaccuracy
  • interspecific pollen transfer
  • Linaceae
  • pollen tube
  • pollination ecotypes
  • pollinator importance
  • reproductive interference

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