Stout, J.C. and Parnell, J.A.N. and Arroyo, J. and Crowe, T.P. 'Pollination ecology and seed production of Rhododendron ponticum in native and exotic habitats' in Biodiversity and Conservation, 15, (2), 2006, pp. 755 - 777.
15 2 Biodiversity and Conservation
Alien plants may be reproductively limited in exotic habitats because of a lack of mutualistic
pollinators. However, if plants are adequately served by generalist pollinators, successful reproduction,
naturalisation and expansion into exotic habitats may occur. Rhododendron ponticum is very
successful, ecologically damaging invasive plant in Britain and Ireland, but is in decline in its native
Iberian habitat. It spreads locally by sending out lateral branches, but for longer distance dispersal it
relies on sexually produced seeds. Little is known about R. ponticum’s pollination ecology and breeding
biology in invaded habitats. We examined the flower-visiting communities and maternal reproductive
success of R. ponticum in native populations in southern Spain and in exotic ones in Ireland. R. ponticum
in flowers are visited by various generalist (polylectic) pollinator species in both native and exotic
habitats. Although different species visited flowers in Ireland and Spain, the flower visitation rate was
not significantly different. Insects foraging on R. ponticum in Spain carried less R. ponticum pollen than
their Irish counterparts, and carried fewer pollen types. Fruit production per inflorescence varied
greatly within all populations but was significantly correlated with visitation at the population level.
Nectar was significantly depleted by insects in some exotic populations, suggesting that this invasive
species is providing a floral resource for native insects in some parts of Ireland. The generality of the
pollination system may be factor contributing to R. ponticum’s success in exotic habitats.
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