Plant-Insect Interactions: Do herbivores restrict the reproductive output of Spathoglottis plicata?
Vega, Carlos J.
Ackerman, James D.
Cuevas Padro, Ana A.
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Many exotic plants have naturalized in Puerto Rico, some of which may pose a threat to native species. One such exotic is Spathoglottis plicata, an orchid native to Southeast Asia. Popular as an ornamental, this orchid has thrived in disturbed areas in many parts of wet tropics. In Puerto Rico, S. plicata likely escaped from gardens and nurseries, and now thrives in two flower color variations, white and magenta. Exotic species often lack natural predators, often giving the plants an advantage over the native flora. However, we found that beetles feast on the flowers and fruits of Spathoglottis plicata, which affects reproductive success of the orchid. Ants also visit inflorescences but feed on the extra floral nectar produced by developing flower buds. Ant—plant interactions involving native species often are mutualistic: energy for protection. We have occasionally observed ants attacking the beetles on the inflorescence. Here we ask whether the beetles significantly alter reproductive success of S. plicata and if the ants, when present, are effective beetle deterrents.