Flowering Phenology and the Influence of Seasonality in Flower Conspicuousness for Bees

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2021-02-16

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Flowering patterns are crucial to understand the dynamics of plant reproduction and resource availability for pollinators. Seasonal climate constrains flower and leaf phenology, where leaf and flower colors likely differ between seasons. Color is the main floral trait attracting pollinators; however, seasonal changes in the leaf-background coloration affect the perception of flower color contrasts by pollinators. For a seasonally dry woody cerrado community (Brazilian savanna) mainly pollinated by bees, we verified whether seasonality affects flower color diversity over time and if flower color contrasts of bee-pollinated species differ between seasons due to changes in the leaf-background coloration. For 140 species, we classified flower colors based on human-color vision, and for 99 species, we classified flower colors based on bee-color vision (spectral measurements). We described the community’s flowering pattern according to the flower colors using a unique 11 years phenological database. For the 43 bee-pollinated species in which reflectance data were also available, we compared flower color diversity and contrasts against the background between seasons, considering the background coloration of each season. Flowering was markedly seasonal, peaking at the end of the dry season (September), when the highest diversity of flower colors was observed. Yellow flowers were observed all year round, whereas white flowers were seasonal, peaking during the dry season, and pink flowers predominated in the wet season, peaking in March. Bee-bluegreen flowers peaked between September and October. Flowers from the wet and dry seasons were similarly conspicuous against their corresponding background. Regardless of flowering season, the yellowish background of the dry season promoted higher flower color contrast for all flower species, whereas the greener background of the wet season promoted a higher green contrast. Temporal patterns of flower colors and color contrasts were related to the cerrado seasonality, but also to bee’s activity, visual system, and behavior. Background coloration affected flower contrasts, favoring flower conspicuousness to bees according to the season. Thus, our results provide new insights regarding the temporal patterns of plant–pollinator interactions.

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Frontiers in Plant Science, v. 11.

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