Image_1_Floral Humidity in Flowering Plants: A Preliminary Survey.TIFF (4.84 MB)

Image_1_Floral Humidity in Flowering Plants: A Preliminary Survey.TIFF

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posted on 06.03.2020 by Michael J. M. Harrap, Natalie Hempel de Ibarra, Henry D. Knowles, Heather M. Whitney, Sean A. Rands

The area of space immediately around the floral display is likely to have an increased level of humidity relative to the environment around it, due to both nectar evaporation and floral transpiration. This increased level of floral humidity could act as a close-distance cue for pollinators or influence thermoregulation, pollen viability and infection of flowers by fungal pathogens. However, with a few exceptions, not much is known about the patterns of floral humidity in flowering plants or the physiological traits that result in its generation. We conducted a survey of 42 radially symmetrical flower species (representing 21 widely spread families) under controlled conditions. Humidity was measured using a novel robot arm technique that allowed us to take measurements along transects across and above the floral surface. The intensity of floral humidity was found to vary between different flower species. Thirty of the species we surveyed presented levels of humidity exceeding a control comparable to background humidity levels, while twelve species did not. Patterns of floral humidity also differed across species. Nevertheless, floral humidity tended to be highest near the center of the flower, and decreased logarithmically with increasing distance above the flower, normally declining to background levels within 30 mm. It remains unclear how physiological traits influence the diversity of floral humidity discovered in this survey, but floral shape seems to also influence floral humidity. These results demonstrate that floral humidity may occur in a wide range of species and that there might be greater level of diversity and complexity in this floral trait than previously known.