Giovanetti, M., Ramos, M. & Máguas, C. (2018) Why so many flowers? A preliminary assessment of mixed pollination strategy enhancing sexual reproduction of the invasive Acacia longifolia in Portugal.Web Ecology, 18(1), 47-54. DOI:10.5194/we-18-47-2018 (IF2018 1,154; Q4 Ecology)
Acacia longifolia, a native legume from Australia, has been introduced in many European countries and elsewhere, thus becoming one of the most important global invasive species. In Europe, its flowering occurs in a period unsuitable for insect activity: nonetheless it is considered entomophilous. Floral traits of this species are puzzling: brightly coloured and scented as liked by insects, but with abundant staminate small-sized flowers and relatively small pollen grains, as it is common in anemophilous species. Invasion processes are especially favoured when reshaping local ecological networks, thus the interest in understanding pollination syndromes associated with invasive plant species that may facilitate invasiveness. Moreover, a striking difference exists between its massive flowering and relatively poor seed set. We introduced a novel approach: first, we consider the possibility that a part of the pollination success is carried on by wind and, second, we weighted the ethological perspective of the main pollinator. During the flowering season of A. longifolia (February–April 2016), we carried on exclusion experiments to detect the relative contribution of insects and wind. While the exclusion experiments corroborated the need for pollen vectors, we actually recorded a low abundance of insects. The honeybee, known pollinator of acacias, was relatively rare and not always productive in terms of successful visits. While wind contributed to seed set, focal observations confirmed that honeybees transfer pollen when visiting both the inflorescences to collect pollen and the extrafloral nectaries to collect nectar. The mixed pollination strategy of A. longifolia may then be the basis of its success in invading Portugal's windy coasts.