Timing of invasive pollen deposition influences pollen tube growth and seed set in a native plant.
Invasive plants may threaten the reproductive success of native sympatric plants by modifying the pollination process. One potential mechanism takes place through the deposition of invasive pollen onto native stigmas when pollinators are shared among species. We explore how pollen from the invasive plant Brassica nigra influences pre- and post-fertilization stages in the native plant Phacelia parryi, through a series of hand pollination experiments. These two species share pollinators to a high degree. P. parryi flowers were hand-pollinated with either pure conspecific pollen (the control) or with B. nigra pollen applied prior to, simultaneously with, or following conspecific pollen. Application of B. nigra pollen lowered seed set, with the simultaneous application resulting in the highest reduction. Pollen tube growth was also influenced by the presence of invasive pollen, with fewer conspecific pollen tubes reaching the base of P. parryi styles in treatments where B. nigra pollen was applied prior to or simultaneously with conspecific pollen. The deleterious effects of invasive pollen on native seed set in this study are likely not due to loss of stigmatic receptivity since seed set was less affected when heterospecific pollen was applied prior to conspecific pollen, but may instead involve interactions between interspecific pollen grains on the stigma or within the style. Our study highlights the importance of timing of foreign pollen deposition on native stigmas and suggests that interspecific pollen transfer between native and exotic plants may be an important mechanism of competition for pollination in invaded plant communities.