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J Chem Ecol. 2015 Jul;41(7):641-50. doi: 10.1007/s10886-015-0599-1. Epub 2015 Jul 2.

Spatiotemporal Floral Scent Variation of Penstemon digitalis.

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Plant Ecology and Evolution, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Uppsala, 75236, Sweden,


Variability in floral volatile emissions can occur temporally through floral development, during diel cycles, as well as spatially within a flower. These spatiotemporal patterns are hypothesized to provide additional information to floral visitors, but they are rarely measured, and their attendant hypotheses are even more rarely tested. In Penstemon digitalis, a plant whose floral scent has been shown to be under strong phenotypic selection for seed fitness, we investigated spatiotemporal variation in floral scent by using dynamic headspace collection, respectively solid-phase microextraction, and analyzed the volatile samples by combined gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Total volatile emission was greatest during flowering and peak pollinator activity hours, suggesting its importance in mediating ecological interactions. We also detected tissue and reward-specific compounds, consistent with the hypothesis that complexity in floral scent composition reflects several ecological functions. In particular, we found tissue-specific scents for the stigma, stamens, and staminode (a modified sterile stamen common to all Penstemons). Our findings emphasize the dynamic nature of floral scents and highlight a need for greater understanding of ecological and physiological mechanisms driving spatiotemporal patterns in scent production.

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