In a co-evolutionary crosstalk amid plants and their pollinators, nectaries serve as a labile link between the relatively fixed structural domains of divergent flower forms and associated pollination syndromes. Floral nectary plays a crucial role in sexual plant reproduction by enabling interaction between plants and their pollinators. It is known to associate with different floral whorls, and exhibits variations in structure and location in different clades across angiosperms. To infer evolutionary patterns, it is important to map key features associated with the trait at various taxonomic ranks. In the present study, we analysed variability and distribution of floral nectaries in Solanaceae for the first time. Floral nectaries of 23 taxa representing different clades in the family were studied using bright-field and scanning electron microscopy. The study reveals that although floral nectaries share anatomical similarity, they differ in morphology, composition within cells, and locations within a flower across the clades. The analysis suggests that (i) there is a shift from symmetric, lobed type nectary in the early branching sub-families to asymmetric, annular type in the late branching ones, (ii) floral organization has shifted from asymmetry (zygomorphy) to symmetry (actinomorphy) in corolla, and (iii) the lobed nectary correlates with zygomorphic floral forms that are pollinated by birds and long-tongued vectors, while the annular nectary is predominant among species with bee-pollinated actinomorphic flowers.
Keywords: Asterids; Floral symmetry; Nectar; Pollination syndromes.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.