pollen and nectar = food for thought

Many plants, including Echinacea angustifolia, flower vigorously during the summer after a prescribed burn. We’ve demonstrated that the benefits of fire for seed production, in many circumstances, are bigger than just the increase in flowering. The additional boost to seed production results from better pollination after fires compared to other times. Now we are trying to figure out what’s going on with pollination–why is it better after a fire? It might be related to pollen or nectar, which are foods for the bees that pollinate Echinacea. Here are two possibilities: 1) after a fire, plants produce more or better pollen or nectar which draws in bees from farther away, so the plants get more visits and better pollination, presumably the bees are happier with abundant & healthy food. 2) after a fire, plants produce less or lower quality pollen or nectar which means bees need to fly to more plants to get a decent meal, so the plants get more visits, and the bees are probably frustrated with skimpier meals and bad food. The third possibility is that plants produce the same quality and quantity of pollen & nectar regardless of fires.

Over the summer we systematically collected pollen and nectar from many Echinacea plants in many populations (19) over many days. Our goal is to evaluate how fires affects the quality and quantity of pollen & nectar produced by Echinacea plants. We are getting close to wrapping up data-entry for our field collection of pollen and nectar from Echinacea angustifolia. Here’s a summary of data-entry progress so far…

[1] "11 sites of data entered twice & verified"

[1] "138 pages of data entered twice & verified"

     site tagCt pageCt 
1      aa     6     11 
2  cg-p01     5     14 
3    eelr     5     13 
4   hulze     6     17 
5   hulzw     5     13 
6  hutche     5     13 
7  hutchw     5      9 
8      kj     6     11 
9   koons     5      9 
10    p02     5     13 
11 p08-tp     5     15 

Each “tagCt” is the number of Echinacea plants we sampled at each site. We will keep you posted!

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources
Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources