Reproductive biology of two Himalayan alpine gingers (Roscoea spp., Zingiberaceae) in China: pollination syndrome and compensatory floral mechanisms.
According to the concept of pollination syndromes, floral traits reflect specialisation to a particular pollinator or set of pollinators. However, the reproductive biology of endemic, and often specialised, plants may require increased attention as climate change accelerates worldwide. Species of Roscoea endemic to the Himalayan region have striking orchid-like flowers with long corolla tubes, suggesting pollination by long-tongued insects. Until now, the reproductive biology of species of Roscoea has been poorly documented. We investigated the floral biology, breeding system and pollination ecology of R. cautleoides and R. humeana, from Hengduan Mountains, a global biodiversity hotspot in southwest China. We also tested whether floral longevity increases pollination success. Pollination experiments showed that the two species were self-compatible and depended on insects for fruit production. Over several flowering seasons we did not observe any potential pollinators with long tongues that matched the corolla tube visiting flowers in centres of distribution. The principal pollinators observed were pollen-collecting generalist bees, with low visitation frequencies. In general, members of the ginger family are characterised by short-lived (usually 1 day) flowers, but flowers of R. cautleoides and R. humeana last 8 and 6 days, respectively. Removing stigmas decreased fruit set in both study populations. Our results suggest that the original pollinators may have been long-tongued insects that are now absent from the Chinese Himalayas because habitats have responded to climate change. However, long-lived and self-compatible flowers, coupled with the presence of generalist pollinators, are traits that have allowed these gingers to reproduce and continue to persist in the alpine habitats.更多