Heterospecific pollen transfer from an exotic plant to native plants: assessing reproductive consequences in an Andean grassland.
Background: The presence of exotic plants increases the heterospecific pollen (HP hereafter) received by native plants and reduces their reproductive output. Aims: We assessed whether the exotic herb Echium vulgare (Boraginaceae) increased HP and reduced seed output of the native plants Phacelia secunda (Boraginaceae) and Stachys albicaulis (Lamiaceae) in an Andean locality, central Chile. Methods: The presence of HP was studied in native plants growing with and without co-existence with the exotic E. vulgare. A complementary hand pollination experiment was carried out to assess whether E. vulgare pollen reduced the reproductive success of native plants. Results: In the presence of E. vulgare, 17.3% and 3.7% of P. secunda and S. albicaulis individuals that coexisted with the exotic species received HP. For P. secunda, the number of conspecific pollen grains decreased in invaded patches compared with non-invaded patches; no differences were observed for S. albicaulis. The pollen of E. vulgare negatively affected the reproductive success of S. albicaulis but not that of P. secunda. Conclusions: The presence of HP cannot be predicted from the presence of exotic plants alone, and other factors, such as flower morphology, could explain the greater HP transfer in P. secunda (actinomorphic flowers) than in S. albicaulis (zygomorphic flowers). A higher negative effect of E. vulgare pollen on P. secunda versus S. albicaulis could be related to the phylogenetic resemblance between the exotic donor and native recipient plant because pollen-stigma compatibility may be evolutionary conserved through common lineages.