Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 304, Issue 5, pp 665–677 | Cite as

Seed micromorphology of Orchidaceae in the Gulf of Guinea (West Tropical Africa)

  • Roberto Gamarra
  • Emma Ortúñez
  • Pablo Galan Cela
  • Ángela Merencio
Original Article


Qualitative micromorphological characters of seeds were analysed using Scanning Electron Microscopy for 95 species of 34 genera, belonging to the subfamilies Vanilloideae, Orchidoideae and Epidendroideae (Orchidaceae) from the Gulf of Guinea countries. Three genera (Dinklageella, Platylepis and Rhipidoglossum) and 69 species were studied for the first time. Vanilla shows a pattern of seed coat distinct to the rest of the studied taxa. Orchidoideae and Epidendroideae show variation in several features: seed shape, orientation of testa cells, morphology of anticlinal walls, cell corners, shape and ornamentation of the periclinal walls and presence of waxes. Two main patterns have been observed: one with parallel medial cells along the longitudinal axis, thin and straight anticlinal walls, with no raised and no thickened cell corners, wide periclinal walls and lack of waxes, for the terrestrial orchids of the subfamily Orchidoideae, the tribes Tropidieae, Nervilieae, Collabieae, Cymbidieae and the subtribe Malaxidinae (Epidendroideae); the other one showed twisted medial cells, thickened anticlinal zone with prominent ridges, raised and thickened cell corners, narrow-to-not visible periclinal walls and presence of waxes, in epiphytic orchids of Vandeae, Podochileae and Dendrobiinae (Epidendroideae). In the epiphytic genera Ansellia and Graphorkis (Cymbidieae) and in Liparis epiphytica (Malaxideae), thickened anticlinal walls and presence of waxes also occurred but parallel medial cells along the longitudinal axis and wide periclinal walls have been observed. This study confirms the diagnostic value of the qualitative features of the seed coat in Orchidaceae and suggests a probable relation with adaptations to habitat for seed dispersal.


Anticlinal walls Periclinal walls Qualitative characters Seed coat SEM Waxes 



This study was supported by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness of Spain through the research project CGL2012-32934. The authors express their gratitude to the curators and collection managers of the herbaria K, MA and WAG. We are much indebted to Yolanda León, the technical staff at the SEM laboratory at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Madrid. We thank Francisco Cabezas, Maximiliano Fero and Mauricio Velayos who participated in Equatorial Guinea’s botanical expeditions. We appreciate Dr Mauricio Velayos and Dr Javier Fuertes for their constructive comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de BiologíaUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Sistemas y Recursos NaturalesUniversidad PolitécnicaMadridSpain

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