Pollinator-mediated selfing in two deceptive orchids and a review of pollinium tracking studies addressing geitonogamy

Matthias Kropf, Susanne S. Renner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Among the factors thought to have favoured the evolution of deception (rewardlessness) in orchids is the reduction of pollinator-mediated selfing when unrewarded pollinators visit fewer flowers per inflorescence. We obtained data on natural levels of geitonogamy in the deceptive orchids Dactylorhiza sambucina and Himantoglossum hircinum by monitoring the dispersal and receipt of colour-coded pollinia. As donors, we marked 185 flowers of D. sambucina and 956 flowers of H. hircinum. In D. sambucina, 30% of the pollinator-visited flowers and 62% of the marked inflorescences experienced geitonogamous pollination events. In H. hircinum, the respective percentages were 36 and 71%. The furthest pollen transport distance in the Andrena-pollinated H. hircinum was 6.9 m (median 1.27 m), while the furthest transport in the bumblebee-pollinated D. sambucina was 176 m (median 1.23 m), a record in Orchidaceae. An analysis of pollen-tracking studies in orchids revealed geitonogamy levels of around 40% (based on individuals; 19-37% based on flowers) in both rewardless species and rewarding ones. This is similar to geitonogamy levels in other animal-pollinated angiosperms, although the data basis for comparison may still be too small. So far, however, it is not evident that rewardless orchids experience particularly low levels of geitonogamy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-508
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Dactylorhiza
  • Deceptive flowers
  • Geitonogamous pollination
  • Himantoglossum
  • Pollinia tracking


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