Floral micromorphology and nectar composition of the early evolutionary lineage Utricularia (subgenus Polypompholyx, Lentibulariaceae)
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Utricularia (Lentibulariaceae) is a genus comprising around 240 species of herbaceous, carnivorous plants. Utricularia is usually viewed as an insect-pollinated genus, with the exception of a few bird-pollinated species. The bladderworts Utricularia multifida and U. tenella are interesting species because they represent an early evolutionary Utricularia branch and have some unusual morphological characters in their traps and calyx. Thus, our aims were to (i) determine whether the nectar sugar concentrations and composition in U. multifida and U. tenella are similar to those of other Utricularia species from the subgenera Polypompholyx and Utricularia, (ii) compare the nectary structure of U. multifida and U. tenella with those of other Utricularia species, and (iii) determine whether U. multifida and U. tenella use some of their floral trichomes as an alternative food reward for pollinators. We used light microscopy, histochemistry, and scanning and transmission electron microscopy to address those aims. The concentration and composition of nectar sugars were analysed using high-performance liquid chromatography. In all of the examined species, the floral nectary consisted of a spur bearing glandular trichomes. The spur produced and stored the nectar. We detected hexose-dominated (fructose + glucose) nectar in U. multifida and U. tenella as well as in U. violacea. In both U. multifida and U. tenella, there were trichomes that blocked the entrance into the throat and spur. Because these trichomes were rich in chromoplasts and contained lipid droplets, they may form an additional visual attractant. Bearing in mind the phylogenetic hypothesis for the genus, we suggest that an early ancestor of Utricularia had a nectariferous spur flower with a lower lip that formed a wide landing platform for bee pollinators.