Reproductive strategies of Strobilanthes kunthianus, an endemic, semelparous species in southern Western Ghats, India
Strobilanthes kunthianus (Acanthaceae) is a semelparous species with synchronized flowering and mast seeding once in 12 years. As semelparous plants have only one chance to reproduce, they are expected to develop effective strategies to prevent reproductive failure. The reproductive strategies of S. kunthianus were investigated by studying the floral traits, pollination biology, and breeding system that are critical for reproductive success. The species exhibits a series of floral traits: (1) gregarious flowering attracts a large number of Apis cerana indica, the major pollinator; (2) the stigma is sensitive to touch by the pollinator; in fresh flowers, the receptive surface faces the entry path of the incoming bee, facilitating pollen deposition; as an immediate response, the stigma curves backwards moving the receptive surface away from the path of the exiting bee, thus preventing autogamy and interference in pollen transfer; (3) flowers remain fresh for 2 days with receptive stigma and nectar and pollen reward. These traits render the species 100% pollination efficient to ensure a high seed set. As the species is self-compatible, the prevailing high degree of geitonogamous pollinations does not interfere with fruit set. The evolution of the adaptive floral traits has facilitated mast seeding in the species. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 157, 155–163.