Evolution of pollination systems involving edible trichomes in orchids

Flower of the rare Cyanaeorchis arundinae occurring in wet grasslands (vereda vegetation) from central Brazil. Photo by Emerson Pansarin

Edible trichomes have been recorded in several plant families. However, food hairs have not been recorded among the Catasetinae, a subtribe of Orchidaceae. In a recent article published in AoB PLANTS, Pansarin and Maciel used data on floral biology to perform studies involving Cyanaeorchis, a genus for which pollinators and rewards are unknown. They also investigated the evolution of resources among the Catasetinae, and the evolution of edible trichomes in orchids more generally. They found that Cyanaeorchis produces food hairs as a reward, while Grobya offers edible oil, and Galeandra is pollinated by deception. The remaining Catasetinae offer volatile compounds. Their data indicate that perfumes originated once in Catasetinae, and that edible trichomes evolved independently five times in the Orchidaceae.

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