Buds, bugs and bienniality: The floral biology of Eschweilera tenuifolia (O. Berg) miers in a black-water flooded forest, central Amazonia

Adrian A. Barnett, Sarah A. Boyle, Natalia M. Kinap, Tereza Cristina Dos Santos‐Barnett, Thiago Tuma Camilo, Pia Parolin, Maria Teresa Fernandez Piedade, Bruna M. Bezerra

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Research Highlights: Our study establishes the biennial nature of flowering intensity as a life‐time energy‐conserving strategy; we show unexpectedly high flower:fruit ratios despite extensive predation of buds and flowers by insect larvae; ‘selective’ bud abortion may be a key annual energy‐saving strategy. Background and Objectives: We aim to explain the strongly biennial flowering pattern of Eschweilera tenuifolia, an ecologically key tree species of Amazon blackwater-flooded forest, inundated for up to nine months annually, and with large flowers (6 cm in width). Materials and Methods: We quantified the insect infestation of central Amazonian Eschweilera tenuifolia buds and flowers; we measured nectar production from flower opening onwards, examined flower duration and monitored pollen theft. We tested the role of infestation in bud abortion, nectar production and fruit production initiation. Results: Our study shows extensive predation of buds and flowers by insect larvae, as well as selective abortion of heavily infested buds, and limited loss to pollen thieves which fed largely on infertile fodder pollen. Nectar production peaked in the morning, with no nocturnal nectar production recorded. Sucrose levels were similar to congeneric values (mean 37.4%), and near‐constant during production. Flower duration (4–5 days) was longer than reported for other congenerics. Conclusions: Insect infestation of buds can play an important role in regulating flower:fruit ratios, thus setting limits on individual total seed set. Individual Eschweilera tenuifolia appear to invest highly in reproduction every second year. Extended flower duration may be a strategy to enhance pollination success, but increases overall reproductive investment. Abortion of heavily infested buds may minimize allocation of energy to malformed flowers, which have a lower chance of attracting pollinators, thus functioning as a short-term energy‐saving strategy. Additionally, biennial flowering in E. tenuifolia is likely to be an energy‐conserving response in a highly physiologically‐challenging environment. Thus, E. tenuifolia exhibits energy‐conservation strategies at two divergent temporal scales.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Bud abortion
  • Flower:fruit ratio
  • Igapó
  • Insects
  • Invertebrate bud predation
  • Nectar production
  • Reproductive strategy


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