Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 203, Issue 1–2, pp 91–98 | Cite as

Bird pollination in South African species ofSatyrium (Orchidaceae)

  • S. D. Johnson


Field observations showed that three South African orchid species,Satyrium carneum, S. coriifolium andS. princeps, are pollinated by sunbirds. Foraging sunbirds insert their bills into the labellum chamber of the flowers and suck nectar from the labellum spurs with their tongues. The column overarches the entrance to the labellum and pollinaria become affixed to the upper mandible of the bill. Birds often attempt to remove pollinaria by rubbing their bills against a branch, but are mostly unsuccessful due to the large plate-like viscidia which attach the pollinaria very firmly to the bill. Other modifications for bird pollination in theseSatyrium species may include the red, carmine or orange colour of the flowers, sturdy inflorescence stems used for perching and large amounts of dilute nectar in the spurs. EachSatyrium species was pollinated by several species of sunbird, and despite some differences in flowering time, occasional hybrids occur at a site whereS. carneum andS. coriifolium share the same sunbird pollinators.

Key words

Orchidaceae Satyrium Nectarinia Pollination ornithophily nectar Flora of southern Africa 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. D. Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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