Journal Article

Domestication of cardamom (<i>Elettaria cardamomum</i>) in Western Ghats, India: divergence in productive traits and a shift in major pollinators

Giby Kuriakose, Palatty Allesh Sinu and K. R. Shivanna

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 103, issue 5, pages 727-733
Published in print March 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online January 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcn262
Domestication of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) in Western Ghats, India: divergence in productive traits and a shift in major pollinators

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Background and Aims

Elettaria cardamomum, a highly priced spice, is native to the Western Ghats of South India. Wild populations still occur in isolated patches in their natural habitats; however, much of today's commercial product comes from cultivated sources. There is no information on domestication-related traits of this species; the main objective of this study was to compare wild and cultivated populations of cardamom in terms of vegetative and reproductive features in order to identify domestication syndromes and to examine whether the two populations have developed reproductive barriers.

Methods

Two wild populations and five cultivated plantations were used for the present study. Vegetative and floral traits, flowering phenology, pollination biology and breeding systems of wild and cultivated populations were compared. Effective pollinators amongst floral visitors were identified by confirming pollen transfer as well as by fruit set following their visit to virgin flowers. Manual pollinations were carried out in order to study the breeding systems of the two populations and reproductive barriers, if any, between them.

Key Results

Several productive traits including the number of branches, number of inflorescences, and total number of flowers per clump, number of flowers that open each day, the duration of flowering, the length of the flower and the amount of nectar per flower are significantly greater in cultivated cardamom. The principal pollinators in wild cardamom are solitary bees, Megachile sp. and two species of Amegilla, whereas those in cultivated cardamom are the social bees Apis dorsata, A. cerana and Trigona iridipennis. Both the wild and cultivated populations are self-compatible and there are no reproductive barriers between the two populations.

Conclusions

Domestication in cardamom has brought about significant changes in vegetative and reproductive traits and a shift in effective pollinators from native solitary bees to social bees. The shift in pollinators seems to be due to the availability of a large number of flowers for prolonged periods in cultivated cardamom that can attract and sustain social bees, rather than due to co-evolution of the flower and the pollinator.

Keywords: Elettaria cardamomum; wild cardamom; domestication; Amegilla sp.; Apis cerana; Apis dorsata; Megachile sp.; pollination efficiency; solitary bees; social bees

Journal Article.  4572 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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