Large flowers can be short‐lived: Insights from a high Andean cactus

Long‐lived and large flowers signify high floral maintenance costs. Species of arid/semi-arid climates with large flowers are expected to have short flower life spans and pollination‐induced flower longevity to curb high floral water and other maintenance costs. We explored the context‐dependent large flower/short flower longevity hypothesis in Eriosyce curvispina (Cactaceae), a large‐flowered species of the semi-arid central Chilean Andes. The determined breeding system, flower visitation rates, and open‐pollination fruit set and quantified floral water content.

In a temperature‐controlled field manipulative experiment, measured potential flower longevity and tested for the presence of pollination‐induced floral senescence. Measured the period of the complete flower cycle was defined as from when the flowers began to open to when they were closed, and the period of fully open flowers was defined as from when they were open until they began to close. The potential flower life span averaged 2.8 days (complete flower cycle) to 2.3 days (fully open flower). The complete flower cycle lasted 21.5 h, but flowers were fully open for only 10.1 h across days. Flower longevity in days was far shorter than reported for a large sample of species in the area. No evidence was found for pollination‐induced flower senescence as a complementary means for reducing floral maintenance costs. Eriosyce curvispina is self‐incompatible and abundantly pollinated by two megachilid bees. The level of pollen limitation (L = 0.36) was lower than the average reported for self‐incompatible angiosperms. Thus, the short flower life span in E. curvispina is not an impediment to a high fruit set.

Flowers contain >5 g of water, of which >2 reside in >40 petaloid tepals. The amount of water is far higher than in other large‐flowered, non‐cactus species in the area, but only about 15% of that is reported in the giant saguaro cactus, which has larger flowers than E. curvispina. Explored the context‐dependent large flower/short flower longevity hypothesis in Eriosyce curvispina (Cactaceae), a large‐flowered species of the semi-arid central Chilean Andes. The determined breeding system, flower visitation rates, and open‐pollination fruit set and quantified floral water content.

A temperature‐controlled field manipulative experiment measured potential flower longevity and tested for the presence of pollination‐induced floral senescence. Flower longevity in days was far shorter than reported for a large sample of species in the area. No evidence was found for pollination‐induced flower senescence as a complementary means for reducing floral maintenance costs.

Read the complete research at: www.researchagte.net 

Cuartas-Domínguez, Marcela & Robles, Valeria & Kalin, Mary. (2022). Large flowers can be short‐lived: Insights from a high Andean cactus. Ecology and Evolution. 12. 10.1002/ece3.9231.


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