Sexual Plant Reproduction

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 281–289 | Cite as

Strong post-pollination pre-zygotic isolation between sympatric, food-deceptive Mediterranean orchids

  • Giuseppe Pellegrino
  • Francesca Bellusci
  • Aldo Musacchio
Original Article


Mediterranean orchids that grow in admixed, co-flowering populations, and frequently show hybrid progenies are interesting to use to study the nature and the strength of post-zygotic barriers. However, examination of pre- and post-pollination pre-zygotic isolating mechanisms requires sympatric, co-flowering species pairs that do not produce hybrid swarms. In this study, we analyzed a contact zone between Orchis italica and O. papilionacea, in which hybrid forms have never been reported, although hybridization between members of their groups of appurtenance has been signaled. We investigated pre-pollination barriers observing the floral phenology of both species and identified pollinators by means of molecular analysis of pollinaria collected on the insects captured in the study site. Post-pollination barriers were tested performing manual crosses in order to evaluate pollen germination/pollen tube growth in vivo and fruit and seed formation. Floral phenologies of O. italica and O. papilionacea display nearly overlapping trends, and two common pollinators have been identified by molecular analysis of pollinaria. Thus, pre-pollination barriers are very weak or nonexistent. Bidirectional crosses have shown that the growth of heterospecific pollen tubes is fully blocked in stigmatic cell layers. Since no fruit formation was detected in bidirectional interspecific crosses, we assume that reproductive isolation between the examined species is fully guaranteed by post-pollination pre-zygotic mechanisms acting at stigmatic level. Such condition has been rarely described and may mask the potential action of post-zygotic mechanisms.


Contact zones Food-deceptive orchids Orchis italica Orchis papilionacea Reproductive barriers 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giuseppe Pellegrino
    • 1
  • Francesca Bellusci
    • 1
  • Aldo Musacchio
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EcologyUniversity of CalabriaRende (CS)Italy

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