PREMISE OF THE STUDYCoflowering plants often share pollinators and may receive mixed species pollen loads. Although detrimental effects of heterospecific pollen receipt have been documented, trait-based modifiers of interactions on the stigma remain largely unknown. Chemicals that mediate interactions between sporophytes could also influence pollen-pollen or pollen-style interactions. We test for the first time whether nickel (Ni) accumulation in pollen can lead to "elemental allelopathy" and intensify the fitness consequences of heterospecific pollen receipt.
METHODSWe grew Ni-hyperaccumulator Streptanthus polygaloides in soils augmented with three concentrations of Ni, measured pollen Ni concentration, and hand-pollinated non-Ni hyperaccumulator Mimulus guttatus. We assayed pollen germination, tube growth and seeds of M. guttatus after pure and mixed species pollinations.
KEY RESULTSStreptanthus polygaloides pollen accumulated Ni in proportion to soil availability and at levels significantly greater than M. guttatus pollen. Although receipt of S. polygaloides pollen increased M. guttatus pollen germination, it decreased the proportion of pollen tubes reaching the ovary and seed number. Increased Ni in pollen, however, did not significantly intensify the effect of S. polygaloides pollen receipt on M. guttatus seed production.
CONCLUSIONSDifferent levels of Ni in the pollen of S. polygaloides achieved in the greenhouse did not significantly reduce the fitness of M. guttatus. Stigma tolerance to Ni may also have contributed to the lack of response to increased Ni in heterospecific pollen. This study paves the way for additional tests in other metal hyperaccumulators and recipients, and to identify mechanisms of interactions on the stigma.