Preliminary Study of the Reproductive Biology of the endangered Varronia bellonis
Varronia bellonis is a critically endangered shrub that is endemic to the archipelago of Puerto Rico. Mostly due to loss of habitat caused by urban development and deforestation, it is currently restricted to the serpentine and karst forests. Since its designation as an endangered species, not much has been studied about its reproduction in terms of flower production, pollination, and dispersion. In order to recover this species, it is essential to fill these information gaps. This project seeks to gain insight into the reproductive biology of V. bellonis and determine the role of the two different flower morphology (pin and thrum) that are on present on this species. We documented potential pollinators, using camera traps, on 50 tagged V. bellonis plants between November 2018 and February 2019. Insects were the group that was most actively visiting both types of flowers during the study period. We were also able to see that flowers with the pin morphology (28% of the study plants) were successfully producing mature fruits, which were collected for future captivity projects. Thrum flowers started to form fruit, but we never see them mature. With the knowledge obtained from this study, we will have a better understanding of the reproductive biology of this struggling species and, hopefully, aid in the design of new conservation strategies.