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Am J Bot. 2006 Jun;93(6):917-26. doi: 10.3732/ajb.93.6.917.

Floral syndromes accurately predict pollination by a specialized oil-collecting bee (Rediviva peringueyi, Melittidae) in a guild of South African orchids (Coryciinae).

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  • 1Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland, 7602, South Africa.


The long-standing notion of pollination syndromes, which postulates that plants form recognizable groups according to pollinator type, has been challenged recently on the basis of apparent widespread generalization in pollination systems. As a test of the pollination syndrome concept, I examined the pollination biology of a group of 15 orchids that share a recognizable syndrome of floral features that includes yellow-green coloration, oil secretion, pungent scent, shallow flowers, and a September peak in flowering. The orchids occur in sympatry in the Cape Floral Region of South Africa. According to the pollination syndrome concept, the similar floral features of this group indicate a shared pollinator. To test this prediction, I observed pollinators on Pterygodium alatum, P. caffrum, P. catholicum, P. volucris, Corycium orobanchoides, and Disperis bolusiana subsp. bolusiana. They shared a single species of pollinator, the oil-collecting bee, Rediviva peringueyi. Female bees collected oil from the lip appendage using modified front tarsi. The orchids reduce interspecific reproductive interference through differences in pollinarium length or the use of mutually exclusive pollinarium attachment sites on the body of the bee. The results are contrary to the expectation of generalization in pollination systems and suggest that pollinators play an important role in mediating selection on floral traits.

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