|Publication Type:||Web Article|
|Year of Publication:||2012|
|Authors:||Nocentini, D., E. Pacini, M. Guarnieri, M. Nepi|
|Keywords:||Boraginaceae, Cerinthe major, nectar, pollinators|
In April and May 2010, a natural population of Cerinthe major (Boraginaceae-Lithospermeae) was investigated with regard to: floral morphology, phenology, sexual receptivity during anthesis, the production of nectar and its sugar and amino acid content. The pollinator array of this species was also investigated. Cerinthe major has showy, pentamerous, hermaphroditic flowers with a deep yellow corolla tube arranged on numerous scorpioid inflorescences. Nectar and pollen are the main floral rewards for pollinators. The arrangement of stamens limits access to nectar and promotes pollen loading onto pollinator bodies as they force their way towards the source of nectar. By limiting the direct exposure of nectar to the environment, the corolla tube and the arrangement of anther filaments seemingly protect nectar from evaporation resulting from high temperatures and low relative humidity during flower anthesis. The green, annular nectary located at the base of the ovary lobes is composed of a very thin epidermis enclosing a dense mass of parenchyma. The epidermis lacks stomata, and the thin cuticle has an irregular surface. The parenchyma cells do not store starch during the pre-secretory stage, suggesting that immediate photosynthesis is the most likely source of nectar carbohydrates. Generally, anthesis lasts 4–5 days; the gynoecium becomes fully receptive on the second day and this is synchronous with anther dehiscence. Since nectar production begins during the bud stage, a substantial volume is available for flower visitors at anthesis. Nectar production decreases drastically in senescent flowers and, if not consumed, the nectar can be re-absorbed. Analysis of sugars revealed a sucrose-dominant nectar (sucrose = 93.18 ± 1.35%). Proline, GABA, taurine, leucine, citrulline and alanine were the main amino acids present and are probably implicated in pollinator flight performance. The bees Bombus hortorum, Anthophora sp. and Eucera sp. were constant and frequent visitors of C. major flowers. Moreover, the manner in which they interacted with the flower in order to obtain nectar and pollen loads was sufficient evidence for their role as pollinators. Their different foraging behaviours suggest that each species may promote differences in pollen flow both within and among individuals of the population.