Data from: Genotype-specific effects of ericoid mycorrhizae on floral traits and reproduction in Vaccinium corymbosum
Brody, Alison Kay et al. (2020), Data from: Genotype-specific effects of ericoid mycorrhizae on floral traits and reproduction in Vaccinium corymbosum, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.nf5nk30
PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Most plants interact with mycorrhizal fungi and animal pollinators simultaneously. Yet, the effects of mycorrhizae on pollination are poorly understood. Here, we examined how inoculation with ericoid mycorrhizal fungi affected flowering phenology, floral traits, and reproductive success among eight genotypes of Vaccinium corymbosum (Ericaceae). We asked three overarching questions: 1) do genotypes differ in response to inoculation? 2) How does inoculation affect floral and flowering traits? 3) Are inoculated plants more attractive to pollinators and thus less pollen limited than non-inoculated plants of the same genotype? METHODS: To examine these questions, we experimentally inoculated plants with fungal spores at planting, grew them in the field, and took flowering and floral measurements over two years. In year two, we conducted a hand-pollination experiment to test if plants differed in pollen limitation. KEY RESULTS: Our results demonstrated that inoculated plants had significantly higher levels of colonization for some genotypes but not all, and there were significant floral trait changes in inoculated plants for some genotypes as well. On average, inoculated plants produced significantly larger floral displays, more fruits/inflorescence, and heavier fruits with lower sugar content, than non-inoculated, control plants. Hand pollination enhanced the production of fruits, and fruit mass, for non-inoculated plants but not for those that were inoculated. CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that ericoid mycorrhizal fungi enhance flowering and alter investment in reproduction in genotype-specific ways. These findings underscore the importance of examining belowground symbionts to fully understand the drivers of aboveground interactions.