The daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) and nightlily (H. citrina) are typical examples of a butterfly-pollination system and a hawkmoth-pollination system, respectively. H. fulva has diurnal, reddish or orange-colored flowers and is mainly pollinated by diurnal swallowtail butterflies. H. citrina has nocturnal, yellowish flowers with a sweet fragrance and is pollinated by nocturnal hawkmoths. We evaluated the relative roles of flower color and scent on the evolutionary shift from a diurnally flowering ancestor to H. citrina. We conducted a series of experiments that mimic situations in which mutants differing in either flower color, floral scent or both appeared in a diurnally flowering population. An experimental array of 6 × 6 potted plants, mixed with 24 plants of H. fulva and 12 plants of either F1 or F2 hybrids, were placed in the field, and visitations of swallowtail butterflies and nocturnal hawkmoths were recorded with camcorders. Swallowtail butterflies preferentially visited reddish or orange-colored flowers and hawkmoths preferentially visited yellowish flowers. Neither swallowtail butterflies nor nocturnal hawkmoths showed significant preferences for overall scent emission. Our results suggest that mutations in flower color would be more relevant to the adaptive shift from a diurnally flowering ancestor to H. citrina than that in floral scent.
Various colored cultivars of ornamental flowers have been bred by hybridization and mutation breeding; however, the generation of blue flowers for major cut flower plants, such as roses, chrysanthemums, and carnations, has not been achieved by conventional breeding or genetic engineering. Most blue-hued flowers contain delphinidin-based anthocyanins; therefore, delphinidin-producing carnation, rose, and chrysanthemum flowers have been generated by overexpression of the gene encoding flavonoid 3',5'-hydroxylase (F3'5'H), the key enzyme for delphinidin biosynthesis. Even so, the flowers are purple/violet rather than blue. To generate true blue flowers, blue pigments, such as polyacylated anthocyanins and metal complexes, must be introduced by metabolic engineering; however, introducing and controlling multiple transgenes in plants are complicated processes. We succeeded in generating blue chrysanthemum flowers by introduction of butterfly pea UDP (uridine diphosphate)-glucose:anthocyanin 3',5'-O-glucosyltransferase gene, in addition to the expression of the Canterbury bells F3'5'H. Newly synthesized 3',5'-diglucosylated delphinidin-based anthocyanins exhibited a violet color under the weakly acidic pH conditions of flower petal juice and showed a blue color only through intermolecular association, termed “copigmentation,” with flavone glucosides in planta. Thus, we achieved the development of blue color by a two-step modification of the anthocyanin structure. This simple method is a promising approach to generate blue flowers in various ornamental plants by metabolic engineering.
The flowers of African marigold (Tagetes erecta L), a medicinal plant widely cultivated in Thailand, were subjected to evaluation for total phenolics, DPPH scavenging and thiobarbituric acid-reactive substance (TBARs) assays as well as tyrosinase inhibitory activity. In preliminary studies, the ethyl acetate (EA) extract obtained by continuous extraction showed the highest activities with highest phenolic content among all extracts. Bioassay-guided fractionation of EA extract led to isolation of a flavonoid identified as quercetagetin. Interestingly, it was found that quercetagetin exhibited potent DPPH scavenging activity with IC50 of 3.70 μg/ml which is about 2-3 times higher activity than standard quercetin (IC50 5.07 μg/ml) and trolox (IC50 9.93 μg/ml). Moreover, it exhibited tyrosinase inhibitory activity on L-tyrosine (IC50 89.31 μg/ml), higher than α- and β-arbutins (IC50 157.77 and 222.35 μg/ml) and slightly higher (IC50 128.41 μg/ml) than ellagic acid (IC50 151.1 μg/ml) when using L-DOPA as substrate. Testing with skin fibroblasts, all the extracts and quercetagetin demonstrated no toxic effect. These finding strongly indicate that African marigold flower is a promising source of natural antioxidative and tyrosinase inhibitory substances with safe to skin.
Both floral development and evolutionary trends of orchid flowers has long attracted the interest of biologists. However, expressed sequences derived from the flowers of other orchid subfamilies are still scarce except few species in Epidendroideae. For broadly increasing our scope on Orchidaceae genetic information, we updated the OrchidBase to version 2.0 which newly added 1,562,071 floral non-redundant transcribed sequences (unigenes) collected comprehensively from ten orchid species across five subfamilies of Orchidaceae. Total 662,671,362 reads were obtained by using next generation sequencing (NGS) Solexa Illumina sequencers. After assembly, in average 156,207 unigenes were generated for each species. The average length of unigene is 347 bp. We made detailed annotation including general information, relative expression level, gene ontology (GO), KEGG pathway mapping, and gene network prediction. The online resources for putative annotation can be searched either by text or by using BLAST, and the results can be explored on the website and downloaded. We have re-designed the user interface in the new version. Users can enter Phalaenopsis transcriptome or Orchidaceae floral transcriptome to browse or search the unigenes. The OrchidBase 2.0 is freely available at http://orchidbase.itps.ncku.edu.tw/.
Climate change is predicted to result in increased occurrence and intensity of drought in many regions worldwide. By increasing plant physiological stress, drought is likely to affect the floral resources (flowers, nectar and pollen) that are available to pollinators. However, little is known about impacts of drought at the community level, nor whether plant community functional composition influences these impacts. To address these knowledge gaps, we investigated the impacts of drought on floral resources in calcareous grassland. Drought was simulated using rain shelters and the impacts were explored at multiple scales and on four different experimental plant communities varying in functional trait composition. First, we investigated the effects of drought on nectar production of three common wildflower species (Lathyrus pratensis, Onobrychis viciifolia and Prunella vulgaris). In the drought treatment, L. pratensis and P. vulgaris had a lower proportion of flowers containing nectar and O. viciifolia had fewer flowers per raceme. Second, we measured the effects of drought on the diversity and abundance of floral resources across plant communities. Drought reduced the abundance of floral units for all plant communities, irrespective of functional composition, and reduced floral species richness for two of the communities. Functional diversity did not confer greater resistance to drought in terms of maintaining floral resources, probably because the effects of drought were ubiquitous across component plant communities. The findings indicate that drought has a substantial impact on the availability of floral resources in calcareous grassland, which will have consequences for pollinator behaviour and populations.
Species flower production and flowering phenology vary from year to year due to extrinsic factors. Inter-annual variability in flowering patterns may have important consequences for attractiveness to pollinators, and ultimately, plant reproductive output. To understand the consequences of flowering pattern variability, a community approach is necessary because pollinator flower choice is highly dependent on flower context. Our objectives were: 1) To quantify yearly variability in flower density and phenology; 2) To evaluate whether changes in flowering patterns result in significant changes in pollen/nectar composition. We monitored weekly flowering patterns in a Mediterranean scrubland community (23 species) over 8 years. Floral resource availability was estimated based on field measures of pollen and nectar production per flower. We analysed inter-annual variation in flowering phenology (duration and date of peak bloom) and flower production, and inter-annual and monthly variability in flower, pollen and nectar species composition. We also investigated potential phylogenetic effects on inter-annual variability of flowering patterns. We found dramatic variation in yearly flower production both at the species and community levels. There was also substantial variation in flowering phenology. Importantly, yearly fluctuations were far from synchronous across species, and resulted in significant changes in floral resources availability and composition at the community level. Changes were especially pronounced late in the season, at a time when flowers are scarce and pollinator visitation rates are particularly high. We discuss the consequences of our findings for pollinator visitation and plant reproductive success in the current scenario of climate change.
Flowers of Geraniaceae and Hypseocharitaceae are generally considered as morphologically simple. However, previous studies indicated complex diversity in floral architecture including tendencies towards synorganization. Most of the species have nectar-rewarding flowers which makes the nectaries a key component of floral organization and architecture. Here, the development of the floral nectaries is studied and placed into the context of floral architecture.
Plants pollinated by hummingbirds or bats produce dilute nectars even though these animals prefer more concentrated sugar solutions. This mismatch is an unsolved evolutionary paradox. Here we show that lower quality, or more dilute, nectars evolve when the strength of preferring larger quantities or higher qualities of nectar diminishes as magnitudes of the physical stimuli increase. In a virtual evolution experiment conducted in the tropical rainforest, bats visited computer-automated flowers with simulated genomes that evolved relatively dilute nectars. Simulations replicated this evolution only when value functions, which relate the physical stimuli to subjective sensations, were nonlinear. Selection also depended on the supply/demand ratio; bats selected for more dilute nectar when competition for food was higher. We predict such a pattern to generally occur when decision-makers consider multiple value dimensions simultaneously, and increases of psychological value are not fully proportional to increases in physical magnitude.
The pleasant fragrance of ylang ylang varieties (Cananga odorata) is mainly due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by the flowers. Floral scents are a key factor in plant-insect interactions and are vital for successful pollination. C. odorata var. fruticosa, or dwarf ylang ylang, is a variety of ylang ylang that is popularly grown in Southeast Asia as a small shrub with aromatic flowers. Here, we describe the combined use of bioinformatics and chemical analysis to discover genes for the VOC biosynthesis pathways and related genes. The scented flowers of C. odorata var. fruticosa were analysed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and a total of 49 VOCs were identified at four different stages of flower development. The bulk of these VOCs were terpenes, mainly sesquiterpenes. To identify the various terpene synthases (TPSs) involved in the production of these essential oils, we performed RNA sequencing on mature flowers. From the RNA sequencing data, four full-length TPSs were functionally characterized. In vitro assays showed that two of these TPSs were mono-TPSs. CoTPS1 synthesized four products corresponding to β-thujene, sabinene, β-pinene, and α-terpinene from geranyl pyrophosphate and CoTPS4 produced geraniol from geranyl pyrophosphate. The other two TPSs were identified as sesqui-TPSs. CoTPS3 catalysed the conversion of farnesyl pyrophosphate to α-bergamotene, whereas CoTPS2 was found to be a multifunctional and novel TPS that could catalyse the synthesis of three sesquiterpenes, β-ylangene, β-copaene, and β-cubebene. Additionally, the activities of the two sesqui-TPSs were confirmed in planta by transient expression of these TPS genes in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves by Agrobacterium-mediated infiltration.
Flowers can be highly variable in nectar volume and chemical composition, even within the same plant, but the causes of this variation are not fully understood. One potential cause is nectar-colonizing bacteria and yeasts, but experimental tests isolating their effects on wildflowers are largely lacking. This study examines the effects of dominant species of yeasts and bacteria on the hummingbird-pollinated shrub, Mimulus aurantiacus, in California.