BackgroundThe African violets are endangered plant species restricted mainly to the Eastern Arc Mountains biodiversity hotspots in Kenya and Tanzania. These plants grow well in shaded environments with high humidity. Given their restricted geographical range and published evidence of dependance on insect vectors to facilitate sexual reproduction, understanding their pollination biology is vital for their survival.MethodsWe conducted an empirical study using flower visitor observations, pan trapping and bagging experiments to establish the role of flower visitors in the fruit set of a locally endemic and critically endangered species of African violet in Taita Hills, Kenya, Streptocarpus teitensis.ResultsThe study found that fruit set is increased by 47.8% in S. teitensis when flowers are visited by insects. However, it is important to note the presence of putative autogamy suggesting S. teitensis could have a mixed breeding system involving self-pollination and cross-pollination since bagged flowers produced 26.9% fruit set.ConclusionsInsects appear to be essential flower visitors necessary for increased fruit set in S. teitensis. However, there is evidence of a mixed breeding system involving putative self-pollination and cross-pollination suggesting that S. teitensis is somewhat shielded from the negative effects of pollinator losses. Consequently, S. teitensis appears to be protected to a degree from the risks such as reproduction failure associated with pollinator losses by the presence of a safety net in putative self-pollination.

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