Journal Article

Stigmatic fluid aids self-pollination in <i>Roscoea debilis</i> (Zingiberaceae): a new delayed selfing mechanism

Yong-Li Fan and Qing-Jun Li

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 110, issue 5, pages 969-975
Published in print October 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online July 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Stigmatic fluid aids self-pollination in Roscoea debilis (Zingiberaceae): a new delayed selfing mechanism

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


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Background and Aims

Delayed selfing is the predominant mode of autonomous self-pollination in flowering plants. However, few delayed selfing mechanisms have been documented. This research aims to explore a new delayed selfing mechanism induced by stigmatic fluid in Roscoea debilis, a small perennial ginger.


Floral biology and flower visitors were surveyed. The capacity of autonomous selfing was evaluated by pollinator exclusion. The timing of autonomous selfing was estimated by emasculation at different flowering stages. The number of seeds produced from insect-pollination was assessed by emasculation and exposure to pollinators in the natural population. The breeding system was also tested by pollination manipulations.

Key Results

Autonomous self-pollination occurred after flowers wilted. The stigmatic fluid formed a globule on the stigma on the third day of flowering. The enlarged globule seeped into the nearby pollen grains on the fourth flowering day, thus inducing pollen germination. Pollen tubes then elongated and penetrated the stigma. Hand-selfed flowers produced as many seeds as hand-crossed flowers. There was no significant difference in seed production between pollinator-excluded flowers and hand-selfed flowers. When emasculated flowers were exposed to pollinators, they produced significantly fewer seeds than intact flowers. Visits by effective pollinators were rare.


This study describes a new form of delayed autonomous self-pollination. As the predominant mechanism of sexual reproduction in R. debilis, delayed self-pollination ensures reproduction when pollinators are scarce.

Keywords: stigmatic fluid; autonomous selfing; reproductive assurance; Roecoea debilis; pollinator failure; ginger

Journal Article.  4713 words.  Illustrated.

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

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