Journal Article

Ultrastructure and post-floral secretion of the pericarpial nectaries of <i>Erythrina speciosa</i> (Fabaceae)

Elder Antônio Sousa Paiva

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 104, issue 5, pages 937-944
Published in print October 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online July 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Ultrastructure and post-floral secretion of the pericarpial nectaries of Erythrina speciosa (Fabaceae)

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

The occurrence of nectaries in fruits is restricted to a minority of plant families and consistent reports of their occurrence are not found associated with Fabaceae, mainly showing cellular details. The present study aims to describe the anatomical organization and ultrastructure of the pericarpial nectaries (PNs) in Erythrina speciosa, a bird-pollinated species, discussing functional aspects of these unusual structures.


Samples of floral buds, ovaries of flowers at anthesis and fruits at several developmental stages were fixed and processed by the usual methods for studies using light, and scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Nectar samples collected by filter paper wicks were subjected to chemical analysis using thin-layer chromatography.

Key Results

The PNs are distributed in isolation on the exocarp. Each PN is represented by a single hyaline trichome that consists of a basal cell at epidermal level, stalk cell(s) and a small secretory multicellular head. The apical stalk cell shows inner periclinal and anticlinal walls impregnated by lipids and lignin and has dense cytoplasm with a prevalence of mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum. The secretory cells show voluminous nuclei and dense cytoplasm, which predominantly has dictyosomes, rough endoplasmic reticulum, plastids, mitochondria and free ribosomes. At the secretory stage the periplasmic space is prominent and contains secretion residues. Tests for sugar indicate the presence of non-reducing sugars in the secretory cells. Nectar samples from PNs contained sucrose, glucose and fructose.


The secretory stage of these PNs extends until fruit maturation and evidence suggests that the energetic source of nectar production is based on pericarp photosynthesis. Patrolling ants were seen foraging on fruits during all stages of fruit development, which suggests that the PNs mediate a symbiotic relationship between ants and plant, similar to the common role of many extrafloral nectaries.

Keywords: Ant–plant interactions; Erythrina speciosa; Fabaceae; Faboideae; fruit anatomy; nectar secretion; nectary; post-floral nectaries

Journal Article.  4952 words.  Illustrated.

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

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