Pollination Ecology of Lyonia lucida

Life in the Scrub
Fetterbush flowering in Central Florida

Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida) is a common coastal plain shrub of the Southeastern U.S. I first became interested in its pollination ecology while interning in the Plant Ecology Lab at Archbold Biological Station in Central Florida. Although L. lucida has showy floral displays, pollinator visits were extremely rare, even though its two congeners at Archbold receive plenty of visits from a diverse suite of Hymenoptera. I began my work with fetterbush by testing the hypothesis that thrips could be contributing to pollination, which has been found for some tropical trees and even another ericad with similar floral morphology. It ends up that thrips probably aren’t contributing significantly to seed set in fetterbush, but what I did find was even more surprising — nocturnal pollination by moths! This is strange given the floral morphology of the species and the rareness of this pollination mode in the Ericaceae. I followed this observation with a series of experimental manipulations and specimen collections, the results of which are reported in

Benning, JW. 2015. “Odd for an ericad: nocturnal pollination of Lyonia lucida (Ericaceae).” The American Midland Naturalist, 174(2), 204-217. pdf

Future work in this system will involve range-wide sampling of floral variation and pollinator assemblages, combined with experimental studies on selective pressures that might lead to pollinator switching in fetterbush.