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Flowering and pollination ecology of Cleistocactus baumannii (Cactaceae) in the Brazilian Chaco: pollinator dependence and floral larceny

posted on 25.03.2020 by Bruno Henrique dos Santos Ferreira, Camila Silveira Souza, André Luiz Silva Fachardo, Aline Conceição Gomes, Maria Rosângela Sigrist

ABSTRACT Cleistocactus baumannii is the only ornithophilous cactus species in the Brazilian Chaco. In addition, this species of Cactaceae invests heavily in flowering in the ecoregion. Such characteristics motivated us to evaluate the temporal availability of flowers in the context of its floral visitors. The reproductive system of C. baumannii, the number of individuals in flowering, flower abundance and the frequency and richness of floral visitors were evaluated and quantified. Nectar robbery was a frequent phenomenon in the studied population; therefore, we compared the pollen load deposited on the stigma of damaged (robbery) and undamaged flowers. In the Brazilian Chaco, C. baumannii is self-incompatible and has a continuous flowering pattern, providing floral resources throughout the year for nine species of floral visitors. One hummingbird species acted as a potential pollinator, and we consider Xylocopa splendidula to be a nectar robber. We found stigma of flowers damaged by nectar robbers to have lower pollen loads than those of undamaged flowers. This study highlights the importance of studying reproductive traits in different populations to understand changes in the reproductive success of plant species at different scales and possible causes, such as availability of floral visitors, incidence of robbers and flowering patterns.