Modified leaves with disk-shaped nectaries of Macaranga sinensis (Euphorbiaceae) provide reward for pollinators

Eri Yamasaki*, Atsushi Kawakita, Shoko Sakai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Premise of the study: Nectar is the most common reward provided by animal-pollinated flowers. Diversity in position and structure of floral nectaries suggests that floral nectar production evolved repeatedly, but the evolutionary origins are not well known. Flowers of the genus Macaranga (Euphorbiaceae) are apetalous and lack floral nectar. Nevertheless, many Macaranga species possess disk-shaped nectaries on their leaves, sought by ants that defend plants from herbivory. In some Macaranga species, similar glands also occur on the bracteoles—modified leaves subtending the flowers. We investigated whether these glands on the bracteoles of M. sinensis are involved in pollination.

Methods: Flower visitors were captured, and body pollen was examined. The behavior of flower visitors on inflorescences was also observed. Sugar composition of the nectar from bracteoles and leaves was collected and analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography.

Key results: Various bees and flies with body pollen visited both male and female inflorescences, feeding on nectar from the bracteoles and touching anthers and stigmas in the process. Sugar composition of nectar from the bracteoles and the leaves did not differ.

Conclusions: Macaranga sinensis was pollinated by insects foraging on the disk-shaped nectaries on bracteoles. The similar appearance, position, and sugar composition of nectar suggest that disk-shaped nectaries on bracteoles and leaves are homologous and that nectaries on leaves were recruited to inflorescences to serve floral function in M. sinensis. Having protective mutualism with ants has likely opened an unusual route for the evolution of floral nectar in otherwise non-nectar-producing flowers of M. sinensis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628-632
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes

User-Defined Keywords

  • Euphorbiaceae
  • extrafloral nectary
  • Lanyu Island
  • Macaranga
  • pollination


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