Reproduction in alpine habitats is challenging because of the short growing season, low temperatures, and high winds. This predicts alternative strategies for sexual reproduction in plants: compensatory measures such as larger floral displays and greater floral longevity to attract scarce pollinators and maintain outcrossing, or high levels of autonomous self-fertilization to assure reproduction in the absence of reliable pollinators. Here, we assessed the roles of animals (crawling insects, flying insects, and vertebrates) on the reproductive success of Claytonia megarhiza (A. Gray) S. Watson (alpine spring beauty). We measured fruit set and leaf herbivory while excluding animals from individual plants at a single site in Yosemite National Park, California. We found that plants were capable of setting fruit in the absence of pollinators and that, in the presence of animals, there was a 42% reduction in fruit set and a 159% increase in leaf damage. This suggests that Claytonia megarhiza may reproduce primarily by self-fertilization, and that herbivory may limit the reproductive success of this species near its southern range edge in California.
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Vol. 65 • No. 1