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Ann Bot. 2005 Jun;95(7):1113-30. Epub 2005 Mar 29.

Comparative structure and pollen production of the stamens and pollinator-deceptive staminodes of Commelina coelestis and C. dianthifolia (Commelinaceae).

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  • 1Department of Biology, 112 Science Place, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada SK S7N 5E2.



Flowers of Commelina coelestis and C. dianthifolia provide pollen alone as a floral reward, and rely on visual cues to attract pollinators. Three stamen types, all producing pollen, occur in each of these species: two cryptically coloured lateral stamens, a single cryptically coloured central stamen and three bright yellow staminodes that sharply contrast with the blue to purple corolla. The objective was to compare the stamen structure and pollen characteristics of each of the three stamen types, and to test the hypothesis that the staminodes are poor contributors of viable pollen for the siring of seed. The pollination roles of the three stamen types and the breeding systems of both species were also explored.


Light, fluorescence and scanning electron microscopy were utilized to examine stamen morphology and pollen structure and viability. Controlled hand pollinations were used to explore the breeding system of each species. Filament and style lengths were measured to investigate herkogamy and autogamy.


Pollen from all stamen morphs is viable, but staminode pollen has significantly lower viability. Pollen polymorphism exists both (a) between the lateral and central stamens and the staminodes, and (b) within each anther. Lateral and central stamens have thicker endothecia with a greater number of secondary cell wall thickenings than the staminodes.


Both species are entomophilous and facultatively autogamous. Lateral stamen pollen is important for cross-pollination, central stamen pollen is utilized by both species as a pollinator reward and for delayed autogamy in C. dianthifolia, and the staminodes mimic, by means of both colour and epidermal features, large amounts of pollen to attract insects to the flowers. Pollen from all three anther morphs is capable of siring seed, although staminode pollen is inferior. The thin staminode endothecium with fewer secondary thickenings retards staminode dehiscence.

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