Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 194, Issue 1, pp 55-67

First online:

Floral volatiles fromClarkia breweri andC. concinna (Onagraceae): Recent evolution of floral scent and moth pollination

  • Robert A. RagusoAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Michigan
  • , Eran PicherskyAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Michigan

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Clarkia breweri (Onagraceae) is the only species known in its genus to produce strong floral fragrance and to be pollinated by moths. We used gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to identify 12 abundant compounds in the floral headspace from two inbred lines ofC. breweri. These volatiles are derived from two biochemical pathways, one producing acyclic monoterpenes and their oxides, the other leading from phenylalanine to benzoate and its derivatives. Linalool and linalool oxide (pyran form) were the most abundant monoterpenoids, while linalool oxide (furan form) was present at lower concentrations. Of the aromatic compounds detected, benzyl acetate was most abundant, whereas benzyl benzoate, eugenol, methyl salicylate, and vanillin were present as minor constituents in all floral samples. The two inbredC. breweri lines differed for the presence of the additional benzenoid compounds isoeugenol, methyleugenol, methylisoeugenol, and veratraldehyde. We also analyzed floral headspace fromC. concinna, the likely progenitor ofC. breweri, whose flowers are odorless to the human nose. Ten volatiles (mostly terpenoids) were detected at low concentrations, but only when headspace was collected from 20 or more flowers at a time. Trans-β-ocimene was the most abundant floral compound identified from this species. Our data are consistent with the hypothesized recent evolution of floral scent production and moth pollination inC. breweri.

Key words

Onagraceae Clarkia Gas chromatography mass spectrometry monoterpenes benzyl esters floral fragrances intraspecific variation moth pollination