Knowledge of the reproductive biology of endangered plants is essential for their effective conservation. It also provides important information for understanding the evolutionary processes that affect speciation, thus helping the definition of proper units for conservation in endangered plants with problematic taxonomy. We studied the reproductive potential and possibility for hybridization in the endangered genus Saintpaulia (Gesneriaceae) by examining flowering phenology, flower and seed production and pollination of three sympatric cross‐compatible Saintpaulia species in the East Usambara Mts., Tanzania. The synchrony observed in flowering in S. confusa and S. difficilis may enable hybridization between these two species, whereas partial phenological separation may contribute to the integrity of S. grotei. Although the level of flower abortion is high in S. confusa, each pollinated flower yields about 1000 seeds. Saintpaulia confusa produces fruits following both self‐ and cross‐pollination but spontaneous self‐pollination seems not to occur. Thus, seed production depends on sufficient pollinator service. Floral heteromorphy (i.e. enantiostyly) and bee pollination are likely to further enhance cross‐pollination, suggesting that the genus predominantly outcrosses. Thus, Saintpaulia populations are likely to suffer from negative effects of inbreeding if they become small and isolated.
Reproductive ecology of three endangered African violet (Saintpaulia H. Wendl.) species in the East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania
Publication: African Journal of Ecology