Revista de Biología Tropical ISSN Impreso: 0034-7744 ISSN electrónico: 2215-2075

High selfing capability and low pollinator visitation in the hummingbird-pollinated epiphyte Pitcairnia heterophylla (Bromeliaceae) at a Costa Rican mountain forest


breeding system
hummingbird pollination
specialized pollination
reproductive assurance
sistema de apareamiento
polinización por colibríes
polinización especializada
aseguramiento reproductivo

How to Cite

Rios, L. D., & Cascante-Marín, A. (2017). High selfing capability and low pollinator visitation in the hummingbird-pollinated epiphyte Pitcairnia heterophylla (Bromeliaceae) at a Costa Rican mountain forest. Revista De Biología Tropical, 65(2), 735–743.


Pitcairnioideae is the second most diverse subfamily of bromeliads (Bromeliaceae), a group exclusive to tropical regions of the New World. Pitcairnioid bromeliads have floral traits assumed to promote outcrossing through biotic pollination systems; however, the reproductive biology of most of the species of this group has not been documented. Pitcairnia heterophylla is an epiphytic (seldom saxicolous) bromeliad occurring from Southern Mexico, into the Northern Andes. We studied the pollination and breeding system of P. heterophylla in an epiphytic population at a mountain forest in Costa Rica from January to April 2013. We performed hand pollination experiments (agamospermy, autonomous self-pollination, hand self-pollination and hand cross-pollination) on 89 flowers from 23 individuals (3-6 flowers per individual) in 2013 flowering season. Nectar production was measured on 18 unvisited flowers of six individuals with a hand-held refractometer. Simultaneously, floral visitors were recorded on eight individuals with trail cameras for a total of 918 hours (115 ± 52 hours per individual, mean ± SE). Under natural conditions, seed set (540.4 ± 55.2) was similar to manually selfed flowers (516.3 ± 41.5) and autonomously selfed flowers (521.1 ± 29.0), but lower to manually outcrossed flowers (670.2 ± 31.3). The flowers of P. heterophylla are self-compatible, capable of autonomous pollination, and non-agamospermous. Intrafloral self-pollination is facilitated by adichogamy and lack of floral herkogamy. The scentless red flowers of P. heterophylla with tubular corollas and nectar production suggested ornithophilic pollination which was confirmed by video recording of 46 hummingbird visits. The most common floral visitor was the short-billed hummingbird Lampornis calolaemus which accounted for 78 % of the visits. However, the visitation rate during the flowering season was low (0.6 visits per day per plant). Selfing in P. heterophylla might be explained as a mechanism of reproductive assurance and to reduce interspecific pollen flow with taxonomically unrelated plants.


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