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Field observations, floral dissections, floral nectar, and pollen load analyses of captured insects of 53 species of Babiana Ker Gawl. show that flowers of this geophytic genus of some 90 species of Iridaceae subfamily Crocoideae, predominantly of the southern African winter-rainfall zone, are cross pollinated by a wide range of animals. These include passerine birds and insects of four different orders, Hymenoptera (mainly Apidae), Diptera (mainly Nemestrinidae), Coleoptera (Scarabaeidae), and Lepidoptera (mainly Noctuidae). Apid pollination involves two discrete systems—passive pollination by anthophorines and native Apis mellifera foraging for nectar and active pollen gathering by A. mellifera and other Apoidea foraging for pollen. From what is known about relationships within Babiana and Crocoideae, it seems likely that passive pollination by anthophorines and honeybees, with nectar secreted in zygomorphic, bilabiate flowers as a reward, is the ancestral condition; it is also the most common, demonstrated for 18 and inferred for 35 more species from all three taxonomic sections of the genus. Active pollination by honeybees and female Apoidea foraging for pollen was demonstrated in one species and is inferred for four more, all of which have radially symmetric flowers and prominent anthers. Pollination by long-proboscid nemestrinids, mostly species of Prosoeca, is recorded for 13 species and inferred for five more, while moth pollination is recorded for one species and inferred for another two. Pollination exclusively by hopliine scarab beetles, known for six species, is associated with development of radial symmetry of the flower. Passerine bird pollination, associated with the classic syndrome of a wide floral tube, red floral pigmentation, and rigid, well-exserted stamens, occurs in two species, and is inferred for one more. Species with a bimodal system in which bees and beetles both visit and accomplish pollen transfer is known for three species. Comparing pollination systems with what is known about species relationships in Babiana, we infer that long-proboscid fly pollination evolved at least four times and moth pollination three times. Active pollination by pollen-collecting bees and hopliine beetle pollination also probably evolved three times each and bird pollination twice. Pollination systems are labile, and we postulate that there has been a minimum of 14 shifts in pollination system, approximately one shift for every six species. Lastly, Babiana species show the same correlation of morphology and floral presentation with particular sets of pollinators, described for several other genera of Iridaceae, e.g., Gladiolus L., Hesperantha Ker Gawl., and Lapeirousia Pourr., as well as Geraniaceae and Orchidaceae. This increases our confidence in predicting pollinators on the basis of floral presentation in other species and genera in which pollinators have not been established.

Peter Goldblatt and John C. Manning "FLORAL BIOLOGY OF BABIANA (IRIDACEAE: CROCOIDEAE): ADAPTIVE FLORAL RADIATION AND POLLINATION," Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 94(4), 709-733, (1 December 2007).[709:FBOBIC]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 December 2007

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