Attraction of pollinators and successful pollen transfer represent the primary targets of selection during flower evolution, leading to repeated evolutionary shifts between pollinators and consequently to the diversification of floral forms. However, most studies in floral evolution focus on the characteristics of flowers with straight corolla tube. Here, we report on an unusual form of sigmoid corolla combined with protandry and herkogamy in a Chinese species of Gesneriaceae, Oreocharis pumila (formerly Opithandra pumila). Contrary to species with sigmoid corollas studied previously, the base of the corolla tube of this species is inclined at an oblique angle downwards before the tube bends forward, and the stigma and anthers are included in the upper part of the corolla tube. The plants were found to be self‐compatible but incapable of autonomous selfing. Successful pollination was found to depend fully on the presence of insect pollinators (Nomia sp.) and pollen grains are the greatest reward for the visitors. Different from the other sigmoid flowers, the sigmoid corolla of O. pumila was not found to favor insect pollinators with long flexible proboscises. A mechanical fit between floral morphology and pollinator was found, in which only small insect visitors with specialized visiting behavior are legitimate pollinators. The protandry combined with herkogamy in the sigmoid corolla tube strongly ensures pollination efficiencies. Oreocharis pumila is the only species with sigmoid corolla in the genus Oreocharis. We hypothesize that such a corolla has arisen through selection due to inadequate pollination in early spring in the mountainous habitat that O. pumila occupies.
Floral ecology of Oreocharis pumila (Gesneriaceae): a novel case of sigmoid corolla
Publication: Nordic Journal of Botany
Genera: Opithandra, Oreocharis