Pollen limitation and its effect on seed germination

Jerry M. Baskin, Carol C. Baskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In nature, fruit and seed production in many plants have been shown to be pollen limited. Pollen limitation is demonstrated when open-pollinated plants that are hand-supplemented (Ps) with outcross pollen produce more fruits and/or seeds than open-pollinated controls that are not hand-pollinated (Po). There are three categories of results in such studies: Ps > Po, Ps = Po and Ps < Po, in which case pollen limitation indices are positive, zero and negative, respectively. In an index widely used to calculate pollen limitation, 1 - (Po/Ps), the bounds for Ps ≥ Po are 0 to + 1, whereas the bounds for Ps < Po are 0 to -∞. The first aim of this review was to show how the pollen limitation index can be modified so that the bounds of Ps < Po are 0 and -1, whereupon the index gives equal weight to the best performer (Ps or Po) and worst performer (Ps or Po). In addition to seed quantity, pollen supplementation can affect seed quality, including germinability. Thus, our second aim was to summarize the results of studies that have also tested the effect of pollen limitation on seed germination. In short, the 30 case studies in 15 families, 16 genera and 18 species that we identified show that seed germination percentage increased, was not affected or decreased by pollen supplementation in 12, 11 and seven cases, respectively. The effect of pollen limitation on seed germination, which can be quite large, has not been considered in developing population growth models to determine the effect of pollen limitation on λ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-260
Number of pages8
JournalSeed Science Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018.


  • open pollination
  • pollen limitation indices
  • population growth rate (λ)
  • seed germination
  • supplemental pollination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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