J Syst Evol ›› 2020, Vol. 58 ›› Issue (3): 331-338.DOI: 10.1111/jse.12496

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Airborne conifer pollen grains are rarely deposited on stigmas of coflowering insect‐pollinated angiosperms

Xiao-Chen Yang, Mo-Han Hu and Shuang-Quan Huang*   

  1. Institute of Evolution and Ecology, School of Life Sciences, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China
  • Received:2019-02-06 Accepted:2019-03-21 Online:2019-07-22 Published:2020-05-01


Although plant species with either animal or wind pollination modes are widespread and usually sympatric in nature, the degree of pollen interference from wind‐pollinated species on animal‐pollinated species remains little known. Conifer trees generally release a huge number of pollen grains into the air, floating into our noses and sometimes causing an allergic response. Here we document airborne pollen from two conifers (Pinus densata Mast. and Picea likiangensis (Franch.) E. Pritz.) deposited on the stigmas of eight coflowering insect‐pollinated angiosperms over 2 years in a mountainous forest community, in Shangri‐La, southwest China. Pollen density in the air as well as conifer pollen deposited onto stigmas at short and long distances from the airborne pollen source were quantified. Our results showed that conifer pollen as a proportion of total stigmatic pollen loads in the insect‐pollinated plants varied from 0.16% to 8.67% (3.16% ± 0.41%, n = 735) in 2016 and 0.66% to 5.38% (2.87% ± 0.86%, n = 180), and pollen quantity per unit area was closely related to that of airborne pollen in the air. Conifer pollen deposition on stigmas of insect‐pollinated species decreased greatly with increased distance from the pollen source. In the 10 plant species flowering in summer after conifer pollen release had finished, heterospecific pollen deposited on these stigmas came mainly from other insect‐pollinated flowers, with little contribution from airborne conifer pollen. The results indicate that there might be little interference with coflowering angiosperms by airborne pollen from dominant conifers in natural communities.

Key words: angiosperms, gymnosperms, heterospecific pollen receipt, insect pollination, wind pollination