The reproductive biology encompassing phenology, floral biology, pollination and breeding systems, of Butea monosperma, a beautiful tree of the Indian subcontinent, was investigated in a protected dry, deciduous forest located in New Delhi. Phenological studies indicated that although the species shows a regular flowering season, all trees do not flower every year. Flowers are typically papilionaceous; the stigma is wet papillate and the style is hollow. The flowers show characteristics of bird pollination being large and bright orange-red in colour with copious amounts of nectar, and exhibiting diurnal anthesis. Although the flowers are frequented by as many as seven species of birds belonging to six families, only one species, the purple sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica), is the effective pollinator. The flowers are also pollinated by the three-striped squirrel (Funambulus tristiatus). Unlike other flower visitors, these two pollinators forage the nectar from the open side of the keel (legitimate path) during which pollen grains are deposited on their body parts. After the first visit of a sunbird or a squirrel, virgin flowers showed pollen load on the stigma and developed into fruits. B. monosperma shows a weak form of self-incompatibility. Fruit set following manual self-pollination (5.25 %) was comparable with open-pollination (approx. 5 %) but was significantly lower than manual cross-pollination (22.51 %). This indicates that there is a high degree of geitonogamous pollination in this species, which may lead to a weakening of self-incompatibility as a means of reproductive assurance. The results are analysed in the light of prevailing discussions on specialized vs. generalized pollination systems.
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