Floral syndromes: empiricism versus typology
published: Dec 19, 2006
The typological concept of floral syndromes classifies flowers ecologically and naturally according to their pollination agents. Among zoophilous syndromes, generalism and seven specialized (euphilic) flower types are distinguished, characterized by sets of loosely combined attributes. They represent the most superficial and evolutionarily most labile organizational level of the flower, usually recognizable in the life state only. Determining a syndrome results from a mutual interplay of character analysis and critical field observation. Assignments may be falsified by field data, and field data may be misinterpreted by rigorous empiricism. Most euphilic coadaptations coevolved diffusely between floral guilds and pollinator guilds. Adaptive radiation into floral syndromes resulted in world-wide convergences. A state of art in syndrome classification and figures of their taxonomical distribution are presented. Although the syndrome concept has a high predictive power and proved reliable in characterizing taxa, analysing communities, and tracing evolutionary trends, it is not unanimously accepted. Objections raised, from merely semantic to fundamental, are commented on.