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Changes in Florets’ Vertical Direction within Inflorescence Affects Pollinator Behavior, and Fitness in Trifolium repens

Qinzheng Hou#, Wenjuan Shao#, Nurbiye Ehmet#, Taihong Wang, Yifan Xu, Kun Sun*

College of Life Sciences, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou, 730070, China

* Corresponding Author: Kun Sun. Email: email

(This article belongs to this Special Issue: Plant–Environment Interactions)

Phyton-International Journal of Experimental Botany 2022, 91(8), 1617-1628.


Ecological interactions between flowers and pollinators greatly affect the reproductive success. To facilitate these interactions, many flowers are known to display their attractive qualities, such as scent emission, flower rewards and floral vertical direction, in a rhythmic fashion. However, less is known about how plants regulate the relationship between these flower traits to adapt to pollinator visiting behavior and increase reproduction success. Here we investigated the adaptive significance of the flower bending from erect to downward in Trifolium repens. We observed the flowering dynamic characteristics (changes of vertical direction of florets, flowering number, pollen grain numbers, pollen viability and stigma receptivity over time after blossom) and the factors affecting the rate of flower bending in T. repens. Then we altered the vertical direction of florets in inflorescence of different types (upright and downward), and compared the pollinator behaviors and female reproductive success. Our results showed that florets opened sequentially in inflorescence, and then bend downwards slowly after flowering. The bending speed of florets was mainly influenced by pollination, and bending angle increased with the prolongation of flowering time, while the pollen germination rate, stigma receptivity and nectar secretion has a rhythm of “low-high-low” during the whole period with the time going. The visiting frequency of all the four species of pollinators on upward flowers was significantly higher than that of downward flowers, and they especially prefer to visit flowers with a bending angle of 30°–60°, when the flowers was exactly of the highest flower rewards (nectar secretion and number of pollen grains), stigma receptivity and pollen germination rate. The seed set ratio and fruit set ratio of upward flowers were significantly higher than downward flowers, but significantly lower than unmanipulated flowers. Our results indicated that the T. repens could increase female and male fitness by accurate pollination. The most suitable flower angle saves pollinators’ visiting energy and enables them to obtain the highest nectar rewards. This coordination between plants and pollinators maximizes the interests of them, which is a crucial factor in initiating specialized plant-pollinator relationships.


Cite This Article

Hou, Q., Shao, W., Ehmet, N., Wang, T., Xu, Y. et al. (2022). Changes in Florets’ Vertical Direction Within Inflorescence Affects Pollinator Behavior, and Fitness in Trifolium repens. Phyton-International Journal of Experimental Botany, 91(8), 1617–1628.

cc This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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