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Flowering phenology and flower predation of Cullenia exarillata (Bombacaceae) by arboreal vertebrates in Western Ghats, India

  • T. Ganesh (a1) and Priya Davidar (a1)

The flowering phenology and flower predation of Cullenia exarillata, a canopy tree at Kakachi in the southern Western Ghats, India, was studied from 1991 to 1993 in relation to general phenological patterns at the community level. Flowering was monitored from 30 marked trees and flower predation estimated from fallen flowers in 40, 1 m2 nets placed under the trees. Flowering occurs in the dry season and coincides with the period of fruit scarcity in the forest. Flowering is synchronous in the population and each tree produces a mean of c. 8730 flowers per tree over a period of c. 47 d. Flowers produced little nectar but the edible fleshy sepals compensated for this. Six species of arboreal mammals and seven species of birds ate the flowers. These consumed 57% of the flower crop of which 37% were completely destroyed. Flower predators could be important in flower fertilization. The overabundance of the flower crop and the timing of flowering, may have evolved as a strategy to satiate predators and enable the flowers to be pollinated during the annual period of fruit scarcity in the forest. This in turn makes Cullenia exarillata a possible keystone species in this forest.

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Journal of Tropical Ecology
  • ISSN: 0266-4674
  • EISSN: 1469-7831
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