Authors: Perez, Mervin E.; Melendez-Ackerman, Elvia J.; Monsegur-Rivera, Omar A.
Publication: Flora
Year: 2018
Genera: Gesneria

Knowledge of plant breeding systems may be critical to facilitate recovery of species considered at risk. Gesneria pauciflora is a threatened, rupiculous, and riverine species with floral-traits that suggest a hummingbird-pollination system. Because these habitat-pollinator conditions have been linked to pollinator-independent reproductive systems, we expected a breeding system that provides reproductive assurance. We assessed the breeding system and potential vulnerabilities during pollination phase using field observations and pollination experiments, to determine pollinator dependency and the existence of strategies for reproductive assurance. Gesneria pauciflora was pollinated by two hummingbird species but visitation rates were low, probably due to low nectar rewards. Fruit set and seed production were significantly higher in flowers when pollen was artificially delivered (self- and cross-pollination) compared to when it was not (control and autogamy), suggesting that reproduction is pollen-limited. Gesneria pauciflora is self-compatible, with some seeds produced via autonomous selfing without any effects of pollination mechanism on seed germination rates. Florivory by the native plume-moth Postplatyptilia caribica was observed, but its incidence was low (12%). Our findings are consistent with theory on the evolution of plant breeding systems on islands, and contribute to the understanding of the evolution of breeding systems in Caribbean gesneriads. Overall, data do not show immediate vulnerabilities to this listed species at the pollination phase, and autogamy may represent reproductive assurance counteracting unpredictable environmental factors that influence its reproduction. However, its capacity for selfing is small relative to other tubular Puerto Rican Gesneria which may explain its rare status