Floral biology of Senecio macrophyllus M. BIEB. (Asteraceae), a rare Central European steppe plant

Bożenna Czarnecka, Bożena Denisow


Knowledge of the flowering phase and plant pollination ecology is very important for understanding the life history of long-lived perennials. In the case of rare species, the information may have implications for conservation practices. Our studies on flower morphology and blooming biology of the vulnerable plant Senecio macrophyllus M. BIEB. were conducted in situ (flowering, activity of insect visitors) in the largest population in SE Poland and in laboratory (light and scanning electron microscopy). The disc florets open diurnally with most intensive anthesis in the early afternoon and attract insect visitors with nectar and pollen. In highly protandrous disc florets, pollen viability decreases in time, whereas stigma receptivity increases. The upper part of the pistil forms a brush-like pollen presenter, covered with unicellular trichomes with chromoplasts. Pollen presentation lasts 4–11 hours per floret, and 8 days in a single head, the main function of which is to extend the availability of male gamets for reproduction. The number of florets per head, the head size, and the number of pollen grains produced per anther, and the pollen grain viability differed significantly between microsites. The finding indicates that, apart from the biotic factors, abiotic conditions may considerably influence generative reproduction of the species. In the study area, the principal visitors of S. macrophyllus flowers were Hymenoptera, with predominance of Apis mellifera (53.4% of visits). The remarkable share of butterflies (13.9%) recognized as the long-distance moving insects may improve the genetic variability of individuals within a fragmented population. A more detailed study is necessary to explain the role of insect visitors in effective pollination and in gene transfer between patches. The assessment of optimal conditions for the generative reproduction is fundamental for the in situ conservation of this rare species.


Senecio macrophyllus; flower life-span; insect visitor spectrum; female phase; male phase; pollen production; pollen viability; stigma receptivity

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