Inflorescence architecture and wind pollination in six grass species

Jannice Friedman, Lawrence D. Harder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


1. Inflorescence architecture and floral morphology vary extensively within the Poaceae, but the functional significance of this variation remains largely unknown. As grasses are wind-pollinated, their inflorescence diversity probably reflects alternate solutions to manipulating airstreams to enhance pollen export and import. We tested this hypothesis with two field experiments that contrasted pollen removal and receipt by compact and diffuse inflorescences. 2. In the 'aggregation' experiment, we tied together panicle branches of two species with diffuse inflorescences, creating more compact inflorescences. Aggregation reduced pollen removal from both species, probably by increasing boundary-layer thickness. The effects of inflorescence aggregation differed between the two species in a manner that is consistent with pollen-size differences, which could affect the ability of pollen grains to pass through the thickened boundary layer around stigmas. 3. The 'staking' experiment constrained inflorescence motion and revealed that culm characteristics contribute to the interaction between grass inflorescences and airstreams. In particular, inflorescence oscillation principally serves pollen removal for species with compact inflorescences, but is of primary importance in pollen receipt for species with diffuse architectures. 4. These results suggest that inflorescence architecture interacts with wind in a complex manner to facilitate pollination and supports the hypothesis that the extensive diversity of inflorescence architecture within the Poaceae represents evolutionary solutions to the physical constraints of wind pollination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-860
Number of pages10
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Poaceae
  • Pollen receipt
  • Pollen removal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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