The relationship between flowering time and reproductive success was investigated in the fly-pollinated, monoecious perennial herb Arum maculatum L. (Araceae). This species temporarily traps its principle pollinator, a psychodid midge. Probability of fruit set was analysed in relation to early, peak and late periods of the flowering phenology of four British populations between 1992 and 1997. In three out of five cases, plants which flowered during early and late periods were significantly less likely to set fruit. In addition, one population showed a similar relationship for percentage fruit set of individual inflorescences, and seeds from peak-flowering plants were significantly heavier. There was no variation in number of female flowers per inflorescence over the flowering season. Probability of fruit set appears to be mediated by the likelihood of trapping psychodid midges that have previously been trapped and picked up pollen, an unlikely event during early and late flowering periods when few inflorescences are open. The majority of plants in all populations produce only one inflorescence which means that timing of flowering may be crucial to reproductive success. We interpret our findings as evidence that stabilising selection may be acting on some populations and/or during some years. The ultimate cause, however, can be related to the very short (12-18 h) female phase of each inflorescence, a phylogenetically conservative trait within the Araceae.
- Natural selection