A Continuum of Conspicuousness, Floral Signals, and Pollination Systems in Rhynchospora (Cyperaceae): Evidence of Ambophily and Entomophily in a Mostly Anemophilous Family

  • Ana Carolina Galindo da Costa Instituto Tecnológico Vale
  • William Wayt Thomas New York Botanical Garden
  • Artur Campos D. Maia Universidade Federal da Paraíba https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8365-1938
  • Daniela Maria do Amaral Ferraz Navarro Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
  • Paulo Milet-Pinheiro Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
  • Isabel Cristina Machado Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Keywords: Anemophily, attractiveness, floral scents, pollination, pollination by both wind and insects, pollination system transition, Rhynchospora


Floral colors and odors are evolutionary strategies used by plants to attract pollinating animals and may be absent in mostly anemophilous groups, such as Cyperaceae. However, considering that insects are floral visitors of some Rhynchospora Vahl species, the objective of this study was to characterize the floral traits and pollination systems within this genus. We analyzed 16 Rhynchospora species with regard to flower morphology, colors of floral structures, floral scents, pollen vectors, and pollination systems. We verified factors that can favor abiotic or biotic pollination in a continuum of floral traits in Rhynchospora. The flower morphology of R. dissitispicula T. Koyama, with inconspicuous brown spikelets in open panicles, is interpreted as a complete adaptation to anemophily. Conspicuous floral traits in Rhynchospora were distinguished from the background by bees. Some species also emit floral volatiles, and we made the first record of floral scent chemistry within the genus. Most of the compounds emitted by these species are known as attractants to many floral-visiting insects. Bees, beetles, and flies visited species with conspicuous floral traits and contributed to fruit set. The investigated floral traits form a continuum across the different pollination systems in Rhynchospora, from anemophilous to ambophilous and then to entomophilous representatives.