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Seed set variation in wild Clarkia populations: teasing apart the effects of seasonal resource depletion, pollen quality, and pollen quantity.

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In habitats where resource availability declines during the growing season, selection may favor early-flowering individuals. Under such ephemerally favorable conditions, late-blooming species (and individuals) may be particularly vulnerable to resource limitation of seed production. In California, a region prone to seasonal drought, members of the annual genus Clarkia are among the last to flower in the spring. We compared pollen limitation (PL) of seed set and outcrossing rates between early- and late-flowering individuals in two mixed-mating Clarkia taxa to detect whether flowering time is associated with changes in seed set due to resource depletion, PL, or increased selfing. In 2008-2010, we hand-pollinated one flower on a total of 1855 individual plants either Early (near the onset of flowering) or Late (near the end of flowering) in the flowering season and compared seed set to adjacent, open-pollinated flowers on the same stem. To assess the contribution of pollen quality to reproduction, we first (2008) used allozymes to estimate outcrossing rates of seeds produced by Early and Late open-pollinated flowers. Second (2009), we conducted an anther-removal experiment to estimate self-pollen deposition. Seed set in Clarkia unguiculata was not pollen-limited. Clarkia xantiana ssp. xantiana was pollen-limited in 2008 and 2010, but not 2009. PL did not differ between Early and Late treatments. In both taxa, seed set of Early flowers was greater than Late flowers, but not due to PL in the latter. Reproduction was generally pollinator-dependent. Most pollen deposition was xenogamous, and outcrossing rates were >0.7 - and similar between Early and Late periods. These results suggest that pollen receipt and pollen quality remain seasonally consistent. By contrast, the resources necessary to provision seeds decline, reducing the fitness benefits associated with resource allocation to ovules.

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