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Ann Bot. 2005 Dec;96(7):1247-64. Epub 2005 Oct 10.

Floral ontogeny in ficinia and isolepis (cyperaceae), with focus on the nature and origin of the gynophore.

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Laboratory of Plant Systematics, Institute of Botany and Microbiology, K.U. Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 31, B-3001 Leuven, Belgium.



The generic delimitations of Ficinia and Isolepis, sister genera in the Cypereae, are blurred. Typical Ficinia flowers have a lobed gynophore, which envelops the base of the nutlet, whereas in Isolepis the character is considered to be absent. Some former species of Isolepis, lacking the gynophore, were recently included in Ficinia. The floral ontogeny of representative taxa in Ficinia and Isolepis were investigated with the aim of evaluating the origin and nature of the gynophore in the Cypereae.


The spikelet and floral ontogeny in inflorescences collected in the field was investigated using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and light microscopy (LM).


SEM images of Isolepis setacea and I. antarctica, Ficinia brevifolia, F. minutiflora, F. zeyheri and F. gracilis, and LM sections of F. radiata, show that the gynoecium in Ficinia is elevated above the flower receptacle by the development of a hypogynous stalk. From its apex, a (often three-)lobed cup is formed, which envelopes the basal part of the later nutlet. In developing flowers of I. antarctica, a rudimentary hypogynous stalk appears. In I. setacea, rudiments of a hypogynous stalk can be observed at maturity. In F. radiata and F. zeyheri, intralocular hairs are present in the micropylar zone. At the surface of developing gynoecia in flowers of F. gracilis, star-shaped cuticular structures appear which disappear again at maturity.


The overall floral ontogeny of all species studied occurs following a typical scirpoid pattern, though no perianth primordia are formed. The gynophore in Ficinia originates as a hypogynous stalk, from which the typical gynophore lobes develop. The gynophore is not homologous with the perianth.

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