POLLINATION ECOLOGY OF THE RARE TROPICAL DECIDUOUS TREE SPECIES, Maerua apetala (ROTH) M. JACOBS (CAPPARACEAE) IN THE SOUTHERN EASTERN GHATS FOREST OF ANDHRA PRADESH, INDIA
Keywords:Maerua apetala, protandry, obligate xenogamy, entomophily, zoophily, barochory
Maerua apetala (Roth) M. Jacobs is a rare tropical deciduous tree species. Leaf fall and leaf flushing occur almost simultaneously during late December-mid-February while flowering occurs during March-April. The flowers are white with a creamy tinge, hermaphroditic, strongly protandrous and obligately xenogamous. The floral characters such as morning anthesis, anther dehiscence immediately after anthesis, large size, scent production, numerous exerted stamens, sufficient volume of nectar and huge pollen production suggest a mix of entomophily and zoophily. Accordingly, the tree is pollinated by bees and birds; the former promotes geitonogamy while the latter promotes xenogamy. Among birds, sunbirds are typically nectar robbers while other birds are pollinators. Fruit dispersal mode is barochory but seed germination and seedling formation either at parental trees or away from them have not been found and hence the tree is on the verge of extirpation.