Effects of Nectar Production and Pollinator Assemblies on Mating Patterns in Orchids

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Uppsala universitet/Växtekologi och evolutionInstitutionen för biologisk grundutbildning


Pollinator visitation patterns should affect pollination success and mating patterns in flowering species. In the orchid family, about one third of the species do not provide any reward for their pollinators. Pollination by deceit is typically associated with low fruit set but may increase the chance of cross-pollination since the pollinator should soon leave the individual plant when there is no reward in the flowers. This may be beneficial if self-fertilisation results in inbreeding depression. I studied the mating patterns of one rewarding and one deceptive orchid in two closely related genera by tracking the fate of stained pollinia. I also conducted controlled crosses to estimate inbreeding depression. The results show that the deceptive orchid Dactylorhiza lapponica has lower pollination success, but higher cross-pollination rate (ca. 90%) than the nectariferous orchid Gymnadenia conopsea (ca. 18% cross-pollination). The results further suggest that in G. conopsea, nocturnal visitors mediate higher geitonogamous pollination rate (ca. 100%) than diurnal visitors (ca. 60%). In both study species, fruits produced from cross-pollination were heavier than fruits produced from selfing. Inbreeding depression for fruit mass did not differ significantly between the two species (δ = 0.21 in D. lapponica and δ = 0.29 in G. conopsea). These data support the hypothesis that pollination by deceit can enhance cross-pollination. A literature study including several rewarding and non-rewarding orchid species indicated lower geitonogamy in the deceptive orchids, but the difference was not statistically significant. 

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