Australian Systematic Botany Australian Systematic Botany Society
Taxonomy, biogeography and evolution of plants

Pollination ecology of acacias (Fabaceae, Mimosoideae)

Graham N. Stone, Nigel E. Raine, Matthew Prescott and Pat G. Willmer

Australian Systematic Botany 16(1) 103 - 118
Published: 25 March 2003


We review the pollination ecology of acacias worldwide, discussing (1) the rewards provided to flower visitors, (2) the temporal patterns of flowering and reward provision and (3) the taxonomic composition of flower visitors assemblages. The flowers of most acacias (including all members of the subgenus Phyllodineae) offer only pollen to flower visitors and floral nectar is limited to a minority of species in the subgenera Acacia and Aculeiferum. The most important pollinators of acacias are social and solitary bees, although other insects and nectar-feeding birds are important in specific cases. Acacias that secrete nectar attract far more species-rich assemblages of flower visitors, although many of these are probably not important as pollinators. Most acacias in the subgenus Phyllodineae have long-lived protogynous flowers, without clear daily patterns in reward provision and visitation. In contrast, most members of the other two subgenera have flowers that last for a single day, appear to be protandrous and have clear daily patterning in reward provision and visitation. The generality of these patterns should not be assumed until the pollination ecology of many more phyllodinous acacias has been studied, particularly in arid environments. The accessibility of the floral rewards in acacia flowers makes them important examples of two general issues in plant communities—the partitioning of shared pollinators and the evolution of floral ant repellents.

© CSIRO 2003

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