From flowering to dispersal: Reproductive ecology of an endemic plant, Astragalus australis var. olympicus (Fabaceae)
Astragalus australis var. olympicus is an endemic plant of the Olympic Mountains, Washington. It is considered a Species of Concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This study focused
Astragalus australis var. olympicus is an endemic plant of the Olympic Mountains, Washington. It is considered a Species of Concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This study focused on the reproductive biology of the plant from flower production through seed germination to identify possible weak points that might contribute to its rarity and impede its conservation. Most plants produced a large mean number of flowers and ovules (314.8 and 4106, respectively), but relatively few of these formed fruits and seeds (25.8 and 3.8%, respectively). In decreasing importance, ovules in fruits were lost to predation, seed abortion, and lack of fertilization. The percentages of these fates differed among sites and years. Excluding pollinators by bagging flowers reduced fruit set by about 50%, but seed set per fruit and seed mass were unaffected. Germination was affected by scarification, temperature, and moisture availability. About 11% of seeds damaged by predispersal seed predators (weevil larvae) remained viable and were released from dormancy. I hypothesize that predispersal seed predation (over 80% at one site) has a negative effect on population growth. Conservation of this species could benefit from improved fruit set and decreased seed predation.