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Pollination and breeding system of a neotropical palm Astrocaryum vulgare in Guyana: a test of the predictability of syndromes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 July 2001

Missouri Botanical Garden, Monsanto Building, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299, USA Department of Biology and International Center for Tropical Ecology, University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63121-4499, USA
Department of Biology and International Center for Tropical Ecology, University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63121-4499, USA


A pollination and breeding system study was conducted on a neotropical palm, Astrocaryum vulgare, in Guyana, South America, to better understand its reproductive character evolution, and test the predictability of pollination syndromes. The pollination syndrome approach was used because it integrates characteristics of flowers and their pollinators into an evolutionary framework that allowed experimental testing of predictions. The flowers of A. vulgare displayed traits that were typical of both beetle and wind pollination syndromes. The protogynous inflorescences produced heat and odour during nocturnal anthesis, had numerous stamens with copious, light pollen, and were visited by hordes of beetles that used the inflorescences as feeding, mating and oviposition sites. In contrast, some of these features, such as numerous stamens with copious, light pollen, a high pollen to ovule ratio, and no obvious production of visitor rewards, were also typical of the wind pollination syndrome. However, floral rewards appeared to be tissues of the fleshy staminate petals and pollen that were readily devoured by the beetles. In addition to the Coleoptera, insect visitors to A. vulgare inflorescences included several species of Hymenoptera, Diptera and Orthoptera. However, only Nitidulidae and Curculionidae beetles were effective insect pollinators. Pollination treatments showed that wind pollination was possible, but fruit set was significantly higher for female flowers visited by beetles. Although a pollen/ovule ratio of 50 000:1 and outcrossing index confirmed an outcrossing breeding system, pollination experiments suggested that A. vulgare had the potential for self pollination. Therefore, the breeding system might be best classified as facultatively xenogamous (cross fertilizing). The predictive value of potential pollinator agents for A. vulgare was inadequate because its floral traits were indicative of both cantharophilous and anemophilous pollination syndromes.

Research Article
2001 Cambridge University Press

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