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Diurnal and nocturnal pollination of Marginatocereus marginatus (Pachycereeae: Cactaceae) in Central Mexico

, : Diurnal and nocturnal pollination of Marginatocereus marginatus (Pachycereeae: Cactaceae) in Central Mexico. Annals of Botany 97(3): 423-427

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Chiropterophillous and ornithophillous characteristics can form part of a single reproductive strategy in plants that have flowers with diurnal and nocturnal anthesis. This broader pollination strategy can ensure seed set when pollinators are scarce or unpredictable. This appears to be true of hummingbirds, which presumably pollinate Marginatocereus marginatus, a columnar cactus with red nocturnal and diurnal flowers growing as part of dense bat-pollinated columnar cacti forests in arid regions of central Mexico. The aim of this study was to study the floral biology of M. marginatus, and evaluate the effectiveness of nocturnal vs. diurnal pollinators and the contribution of each pollinator group to overall plant fitness. METHODS: Individual flower buds were marked and followed to evaluate flower phenology and anthesis time. Flowers and nectar production were measured. An exclusion experiment was conducted to measure the relative contribution of nocturnal and diurnal pollinators to seed set. KEY RESULTS: Marginatocereus marginatus has red hermaphroditic flowers with nocturnal and diurnal anthesis. The plant cannot produce seeds by selfing and was pollinated during the day by hummingbirds and during the night by bats, demonstrating that both pollinator groups were important for plant reproduction. Strong pollen limitation was found in the absence of one of the pollinator guilds. CONCLUSIONS: Marginatocereus marginatus has an open pollination system in which both diurnal and nocturnal pollinators are needed to set seeds. This represents a fail-safe pollination system that can ensure both pollination, in a situation of low abundance of one of the pollinator groups (hummingbirds), and high competition for nocturnal pollinators with other columnar cacti that bloom synchronously with M. marginatus in the Tehuacan Valley, Mexico.


PMID: 16394025

DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcj045

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