Highly efficient pollination by bumblebees ensures seed production in Pedicularis lachnoglossa (Orobanchaceae), an early-flowering Himalayan plant
Pedicularis (Orobranchaceae) is a common high altitude genus of the Himalayas that may be affected by pollination limitation. Using Pedicularis lachnoglossa from Yulong (Jade Dragon) Snow Mountain in Lijiang (Yunnan Province, southwest China), we investigated the effects of high altitude habitats on the process of pollination and seed production. Floral biology, pollinator foraging behavior, breeding system, and pollination efficiency were examined using observation and exclusionary techniques. Pedicularis lachnoglossa was found to be entomophilous and exclusively pollinated by Bombus friseanus and B. yunnanicola. Our results indicated that pollination limitation in P. lachnoglossa was not significant. Under open pollination, approximately 80% of flowers were successfully pollinated and developed to fruits, and about 38% of ovules developed to mature seeds. Bumblebee pollination is highly precise and efficient in P. lachnoglossa, because its flowering phenology and floral characters enhance the foraging of bumblebees on flowers. This study supports that animal pollination plays a crucial role in the outbreeding of the early flowering Pedicularis. The evolution of floral specification in Pedicularis has the advantages of adaptation to bumblebee pollination in adverse high altitude habitats.