Comparative Seed Morphology of Tropical and Temperate Orchid Species with Different Growth Habits

Plants (Basel). 2020 Jan 29;9(2):161. doi: 10.3390/plants9020161.


Seed morphology underpins many critical biological and ecological processes, such as seed dormancy and germination, dispersal, and persistence. It is also a valuable taxonomic trait that can provide information about plant evolution and adaptations to different ecological niches. This study characterised and compared various seed morphological traits, i.e., seed and pod shape, seed colour and size, embryo size, and air volume for six orchid species; and explored whether taxonomy, biogeographical origin, or growth habit are important determinants of seed morphology. We investigated this on two tropical epiphytic orchid species from Indonesia (Dendrobium strebloceras and D. lineale), and four temperate species from New Zealand, terrestrial Gastrodia cunnninghamii, Pterostylis banksii and Thelymitra nervosa, and epiphytic D. cunninghamii. Our results show some similarities among related species in their pod shape and colour, and seed colouration. All the species studied have scobiform or fusiform seeds and prolate-spheroid embryos. Specifically, D. strebloceras, G. cunninghamii, and P. banksii have an elongated seed shape, while T. nervosa has truncated seeds. Interestingly, we observed high variability in the micro-morphological seed characteristics of these orchid species, unrelated to their taxonomy, biogeographical origin, or growth habit, suggesting different ecological adaptations possibly reflecting their modes of dispersal.

Keywords: air-space; epiphytic; micro-morphometric; temperate; terrestrial; tropical.