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Ann Bot. 2007 Aug;100(2):241-8. Epub 2007 Jun 12.

The discovery of polyandry in Curculigo (Hypoxidaceae): implications for androecium evolution of asparagoid monocotyledons.

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  • Institute of Systematic Botany, Ludwig Maximilians University, Menzinger Strasse 67, D-80638 Munich, Germany. kocyan@lrz.uni-muenchen.de



Individual flowers of the monocot Curculigo racemosa (Hypoxidaceae, Asparagales) are regularly polyandrous. To evaluate the significance of this almost unique character among Asparagales for flower evolution of asparagoid monocots, flowers of C. racemosa were studied comparatively.


Anthetic flowers as well as early floral developmental stages were studied by light and scanning electron microscopy.


Despite the polyandry, floral development is similar to that of other Asparagales with a developmental gradient from adaxial to abaxial. Stamens initiate simultaneously and the diameter of staminal primordia is about half of that in species with six anthers. The number of stamens is not fixed (12-26) and varies within the same inflorescence. Surprisingly, the gynoecium can be four- or six-locular, besides the normal trimerous state.


The discovery of a polyandrous Curculigo reveals plasticity of stamen number at the base of Asparagales. Orchidaceae - sister to all other Asparagales - has a reduced stamen number (three, two or one), whereas in Hypoxidaceae - part of the next diverging clade - either the normal monocot stamen number (six), polyandry (this study) or the loss of three anthers (Pauridia) occurs. However, at present it is impossible to decide whether the flexibility in stamen number is autapomorphic for each group or whether it is a synapomorphy. The small size of stamen primordia of Curculigo is conspicuous. It allows more space for additional androecial primordia. Stamens are initiated as independent organs, and filaments are not in bundles, hence C. racemosa is not secondarily polyandrous as may be the case in the distantly related Gethyllis of asparagoid Amaryllidaceae. The increase in carpel number is a rare phenomenon in angiosperms. A possible explanation for the polyandry of C. racemosa is that it is a natural SUPERMAN-deficient mutant, which shows an increase of stamens, or ULTRAPETALA or CARPEL FACTORY mutants, which are polyandrous and changed in carpel number.

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