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Wednesday word file: pollination syndrome

The word “syndrome” by itself means “a set of characteristics that are seen together more frequently than by chance alone” or “a number of characteristics or features that seem to go with each other or are believed to be connected in some way.”

A pollination syndrome, then, is a group of characteristics that are seen in plants that are pollinated in a certain way. For example, bee pollination is a syndrome (a group of characteristics) that is seen in plants that are pollinated by bees. These plants usually have large or showy flowers that are both colorful and fragrant, sweet nectar, specialized patterns on the petals called nectar guides, and sometimes landing platforms. All these characteristics are pleasing to bees.

In contrast, plants pollinated by the wind have no use for these same characteristics. Indeed, producing them would be a waste of energy for those plants. Wind pollinated plants often have tiny, nondescript, green flowers with no odor, no nectar, and no patterns. Pollen in these plants is produced in huge quantities and is often quite small. The anthers (pollen-producing organs) may stick up so the wind has a greater chance of dislodging the pollen and carrying it away.

Below is a list of the most common pollination syndromes and their scientific names. It is not important to know the names; just remember that each of these syndromes is just a group of characteristics that commonly occur in plants that are pollinated in a certain way.

  • Insect pollination (entomophily)
  • Bee pollination (melittophily or hymenopterophily)
  • Butterfly pollination (psychophily)
  • Moth pollination (phalaenophily)
  • Fly pollination (sapromyiophily)
  • Bat pollination (cheiropterophily)
  • Bird pollination (ornithophily)
  • Wind pollination (anemophily)
  • Water pollination (hydrophily)
  • Beetle pollination (cantharophily)
  • Carrion beetle pollination (necrocoleopterophily)
  • Ant pollination (myrmecophily)

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