Is there wind pollination in the southern heaths (Styphelioideae, Ericaceae)?
Ladd, Philip G.
published: Dec 19, 2006
Wind pollination is associated with particular plant groups including conifers, grasses and some tree species. However sporadically (but quite frequently) it has evolved in lineages that are predominantly biotically pollinated. Factors which have been proposed as forcing this change are often associated with extreme environmental conditions that could limit pollinator attention to the flowers of the species. The Styphelioideae has been considered exclusively biotically pollinated, with insects the predominant visitors and vertebrates somewhat less important. However at least three species of Richea seem to have a number of characteristics which point towards wind as the main pollen vector. This study enumerates some of the characteristics of selected Richea species and evaluates the likelihood that wind pollination has evolved in R. sprengelioides, R. procera and R. victoriana. The genus seems to have exaptations, for example the "operculum type" of corolla, which would facilitate development of wind pollination from an insect-pollinated ancestor. Comparison with two Erica species illustrates that different modifications may faciliate change to achieve a similar outcome.