PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Understanding resource allocation to reproduction, a key factor in life history tradeoffs, has long intrigued plant ecologists. Despite the recognized importance of understanding the movement of resources among flowers following variable pollination, the patterns of resource reallocation to plant reproductive organs have not been thoroughly addressed. In this study, we aimed to empirically explore how resources redistribute within inflorescences in response to differential pollination intensities.
METHODS: Using a common herb, Sagittaria trifolia, we conducted supplemental and controlled pollination for single, some, or all flowers in simple and complex inflorescences, and compared their resulting fruiting probabilities, seed production, and average seed
KEY RESULTS: Pollen supplementation of a single flower significantly increased its fruiting probability; however, the same manipulation of an inflorescence did not increase its overall reproduction. Single pollen-supplemented flowers had a higher percentage fruit set than inflorescences receiving supplemental pollination. In complex inflorescences, supplemental pollination had no effect on the reproductive success of flowers on the lateral or main branches.
CONCLUSIONS: We provided evidence of resource reallocation from controlled to pollen-supplemented flowers in simple inflorescences; however, resources were unlikely to be reallocated between the main and lateral branches in the complex inflorescences, suggesting
that flowering branches represent integrated physiological units in S. trifolia. The results also demonstrated that single-flower
supplemental pollination would exaggerate pollen limitation and lead to a biased understanding of a plant’s reproductive status.