Wind of change: New insights on the ecology and evolution of pollination and mating in wind-pollinated plants

Jannice Friedman, Spencer C.H. Barrett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

325 Scopus citations


Background The rich literature that characterizes the field of pollination biology has focused largely on animal-pollinated plants. At least 10 % of angiosperms are wind pollinated, and this mode of pollination has evolved on multiple occasions among unrelated lineages, and hence this discrepancy in research interest is surprising. Here, the evolution and functional ecology of pollination and mating in wind-pollinated plants are discussed, a theoretical framework for modelling the selection of wind pollination is outlined, and pollen capture and the occurrence of pollen limitation in diverse wind-pollinated herbs are investigated experimentally. Scope and Conclusions Wind pollination may commonly evolve to provide reproductive assurance when pollinators are scarce. Evidence is presented that pollen limitation in wind-pollinated plants may not be as common as it is in animal-pollinated species. The studies of pollen capture in wind-pollinated herbs demonstrate that pollen transfer efficiency is not substantially lower than in animal-pollinated plants as is often assumed. These findings challenge the explanation that the evolution of few ovules in wind-pollinated flowers is associated with low pollen loads. Floral and inflorescence architecture is crucial to pollination and mating because of the aerodynamics of wind pollination. Evidence is provided for the importance of plant height, floral position, and stamen and stigma characteristics in promoting effective pollen dispersal and capture. Finally, it is proposed that geitonogamous selfing may alleviate pollen limitation in many wind-pollinated plants with unisexual flowers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1515-1527
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 7 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Wind pollination
  • geitonogamy
  • inflorescence architecture
  • mating systems
  • pollen limitation
  • reproductive assurance
  • sex allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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