Journal Article

Rain pollination provides reproductive assurance in a deceptive orchid

Xu-Li Fan, Spencer C. H. Barrett, Hua Lin, Ling-Ling Chen, Xiang Zhou and Jiang-Yun Gao

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 110, issue 5, pages 953-958
Published in print October 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online July 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Rain pollination provides reproductive assurance in a deceptive orchid

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


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Background and Aims

Abiotic pollination by wind or water is well established in flowering plants. In some species pollination by rain splashes, a condition known as ombrophily, has been proposed as a floral strategy. However, evidence for this type of abiotic pollination has remained controversial and many reported cases have subsequently been shown to be false. This study investigates ombrophily in the deceptive orchid Acampe rigida to determine the mechanism by which this species is able to maintain high fecundity, despite flowering during the rainy season in south-west China when pollinators are scarce.


The floral mechanisms promoting rain pollination in A. rigida were observed and described in detail. Controlled pollination experiments and observations of floral visitors were conducted. A field experiment using rain shelters at 14 sites in Guangxi, south-west China, evaluated the contribution of rain pollination to fruit-set.

Key Results

During rainfall, raindrops physically flicked away the anther cap exposing the pollinarium. Raindrops then caused pollinia to be ejected upwards with the strap-like stipe pulling them back and causing them to fall into the stigmatic cavity, resulting in self-pollination. Neither flower nor pollen function were damaged by water. Although A. rigida is self-compatible, it is incapable of autonomous self-pollination without the assistance of rain splashes. The results of the rain-sheltering experiment indicated that rain pollination contributed substantially to increasing fruit-set, although there was variation among sites in the intensity of this effect.


A. rigida flowers during the rainy season, when pollinators are scarce, and ombrophily functions to provide reproductive assurance without compromising opportunities for outcrossing.

Keywords: Abiotic pollination; Acampe rigida; floral adaptation; ombrophily; rain-mediated self-pollination; deceptive orchid

Journal Article.  4216 words.  Illustrated.

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

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