Sex in an evening primrose: can hand pollination select for traits that make plants less attractive to hawkmoths?
Oenothera organensis is a rare evening primrose, found only in the Organ Mountains of New Mexico. The Chicago Botanic Garden obtained plants from a greenhouse collection at Indiana University of Oe. organensis descended from individuals collected in the wild in 1938, as well as plants collected last year from the wild. Oe. organensis is self-incompatible, and primarily pollinated by hawkmoths. The greenhouse collection has been propagated by hand pollination for several generations. Given the potential for ex situ (off site) populations to undergo artificial selection, there is concern that floral traits of the greenhouse population may have diverged from those of the wild populations. This project will involve a combination of greenhouse and lab work, including measuring morphological traits, nectar quantity, sugar content, and floral scent of wild-collected and greenhouse populations. The goal is to determine if any change has occurred in the greenhouse population that might decrease their attractiveness to hawkmoths in their native range. If so, we will conduct crosses to determine if that change is heritable, which may limit the potential for reintroduction of ex situ plants. The ideal REU candidate will have an interest in ex situ conservation and plant-pollinator interactions. This position will also provide the opportunity to assist other researchers (Nathan Lamb, Pati Vitt) with ongoing field and lab work beyond the scope of this project, including a few days of field work on the sand dunes of Door County, WI.