Pollination by animals, principally insects and birds, is widespread among plants.
It usually involves the evolution of specialised floral features. These include modifications to the structure of flowers, nectar and oil-producing glands providing various levels of reward for flower visitors and, sometimes, partial or complete separation of the sexes among individual plants.

Such plants rely on cross-pollination for successful fertilisation, but how dependent are they on specific pollinators? Do some rely solely on being pollinated by birds, while others depend on insect pollinators? Do some rely on both, and does the balance of insect and bird-pollination matter to such species? What might a decline in pollinator numbers mean for these animal-plant pollination systems? And to what extent do non-native plants disrupt the functioning of these systems by diverting the attention of native pollinators?

Dr Alastair Robertson, Associate Professor of Ecology in Massey University's School of Agriculture and Environment, has been working on such questions for more than 30 years, and is an acknowledged expert on the subject. In this month's Nature Talks, he will focus on mixed pollination systems, ones involving both birds and insects as pollinators, in a talk titled Skills-shortage in the pollinating workforce: mixed pollination systems in plants and who really gets the job done. In this talk, he will highlight some of his work on these systems, starting with New Zealand mistletoes, kotukutuku (tree fuchsia) and kowhai, and ending with African lilies and some as-yet unresolved questions.

The talk will be given in the Davis Lecture Theatre, Whanganui Regional Museum (Watt St entrance), on Tuesday, March 19, at 7.30pm. Everyone is welcome and entrance is free, although a gold-coin koha is always welcome, to help offset costs.

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Nature Talks is a series of monthly talks offered by three local environmental groups — the Whanganui Museum Botanical Group, the Whanganui branch of Forest & Bird, and Birds New Zealand (Whanganui Region), in conjunction with the Whanganui Regional Museum — on topics related to New Zealand's environment and natural history, and their conservation. The talks are normally held on the third Tuesday of each month.
Contact Colin Ogle, (06) 347 8547 or by email robcol.ogle@xtra.co.nz