Impact of plant flowering phenology on the cost/benefit balance in a nursery pollination mutualism, with honest males and cheating females

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This study documents the flowering phenology and its potential consequences on a nursery pollination mutualism between a dioecious plant, in which honest male plants, but not cheating females, allow the specific pollinator to reproduce within inflorescences. Very few pollinators were found to emerge during plant anthesis, leading to a low (if any) potential benefit through pollen dispersal. This opens the question why male plants do not also cheat their pollinators. Female plants flowered late in the season, when many males had just achieved their own anthesis, which increased the efficiency of pollen transfer. Finally, some late-flowering males reached their anthesis simultaneously with females, which open the possibility for pollinator to choose between honest males and cheating females. Nevertheless, female plants were found to produce fruits, even though fruit production was limited by pollen (and pollinator) supply, meaning that cheating was not entirely retaliated by the mutualistic partner.

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