The floral biology ofThelymitra epipactoides (Orchidaceae), and the implications of pollination by deceit on the survival of this rare orchid

Abstract

Thelymitra epipactoides has a highly variable visual display achieved through polychromatic flowers and variable inflorescence size, bearing between 7 and 31 flowers, which attract foraging polylectic bees. Only bees of the genusNomia were observed carrying pollinia and successfully pollinating the orchid. The genusNomia contains polylectic, pollen gathering species that store pollen in both the crop and scopa on the hind legs. The absence of a reward for the bees indicates the orchid is relying on deception to attract visitors. The relationship of deception to mimicry is discussed. Once on the flower, tactile, visual and possibly olfactory stimuli direct bees to the false anther formed by the voluminous column wings, where morphological adaptations of the flower ensure that the pollinarium is deposited on the gaster of the bee to effect pollination. — The lack of seed set observed on the Victorian coast appears to be due to the absence of pollinators from the heath and grassland communities in which the orchid grows. This may well be a consequence of the reduced number of plants flowering in the community (a result of the elimination of fire at these sites), thus not maintaining a floral community attractive to potential pollinators.

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Cropper, S.C., Calder, D.M. The floral biology ofThelymitra epipactoides (Orchidaceae), and the implications of pollination by deceit on the survival of this rare orchid. Pl Syst Evol 170, 11–27 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00937846

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Key words

  • Angiosperms
  • Orchidaceae
  • Thelymitra epipactoides
  • bees
  • Nomia
  • Lasioglossum
  • Pollination
  • deceit
  • floral mimicry
  • Flora of Australia