In the right place at the right time: Parnassia resolves the herkogamy dilemma by accurate repositioning of stamens and stigmas

Scott Armbruster, Sarah A. Corbet, Aiden J. M. Vey, Shu-Juan Liu, Shuang-Quan Huang

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Background and Aims: Spatial (herkogamy) and temporal (dichogamy) separation of pollen presentation and stigma receptivity have been interpreted as reducing interference between male and female functions in hermaphroditic flowers. However, spatial separation leads to a potential conflict: reduced pollination accuracy, where pollen may be placed in a location on the pollinator different from the point of stigma contact.

Methods: To understand better how herkogamous flowers resolve this conflict, a study was made of a subalpine herb, Parnassia epunctulata, the nectariferous flowers of which exhibit sequential anther dehiscence (staggered pollen presentation) and stamen movements; usually one newly dehisced anther is positioned each day over the central gynoecium, while the older stamens bend away from the central position.

Key Results: The open flowers were visited by a variety of pollinators, most of which were flies. Seed set was pollinator-dependent (bagged flowers set almost no seeds) and pollen-limited (manual pollination increased seed set over open pollination). Analyses of adaptive accuracy showed that coordinated stamen movements and style elongation (movement herkogamy) dramatically increased pollination accuracy. Specifically, dehiscing anthers and receptive stigmas were positioned accurately in the vertical and horizontal planes in relation to the opposite sexual structure and pollinator position. By contrast, the spatial correspondence between anthers and stigma was dramatically lower before the anthers dehisced and after stamens bent outwards, as well as before and after the period of stigmatic receptivity.

Conclusions: It is shown for the first time that a combination of movement herkogamy and dichogamy can maintain high pollination accuracy in flowers with generalized pollination. Staggered pollen and stigma presentation with spatial correspondence can both reduce sexual interference and improve pollination accuracy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-103
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number1
Early online date20 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


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