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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Chemical Biology of Insect and Plant Signaling Systems

Location: Chemistry Research Unit

Title: Fragrance composition of Dendrophylax lindenii (Orchidaceae) using novel technique applied in situ

Authors
item Sadler, James -
item Smith, Jaclyn -
item Zettler, Lawrence -
item Alborn, Hans
item Richardson, Larry -

Submitted to: European Journal of Environmental Sciences
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 1, 2011
Publication Date: June 1, 2011
Citation: Sadler, J.J., Smith, J.M., Zettler, L.W., Alborn, H.T., Richardson, L.W. 2011. Fragrance composition of Dendrophylax lindenii (Orchidaceae) using novel technique applied in situ. European Journal of Environmental Sciences. Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 137-141.

Interpretive Summary: The ghost orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii (Lindley) Bentham ex Rolfe (Orchidaceae), frequents shaded swamps as an epiphyte and is native to Cuba and SW Florida. It is one of North America’s rarest orchids and has experienced a steady decline. A rare flowering event in 2009 gave a unique opportunity to study and to collect floral scents of this species in situ. GC/MS analyses of the collections showed the scent to consist of mostly terpenoids, typical of moth pollinated orchids and gave no indication of adaptations for specialized pollinators. Therefore the decline might be due to environmental factors rather than the absence of suitable pollinators.

Technical Abstract: The ghost orchid, Dendrophylax lindenii (Lindley) Bentham ex Rolfe (Orchidaceae), is one of North America’s rarest and well-known orchids. Native to Cuba and SW Florida where it frequents shaded swamps as an epiphyte, the species has experienced steady decline. Little information exists on D. lindenii’s biology in situ, raising conservation concerns. During the summer of 2009 at an undisclosed population in Collier County, FL, a substantial number (ca. 13) of plants initiated anthesis offering a unique opportunity to study this species in situ. We report a new technique aimed at capturing floral headspace of D. lindenii in situ, and identified volatile compounds using gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS). All components of the floral scent were identified as terpenoids with the exception of methyl salicylate. The most abundant compound was the sesquiterpene (E,E)-a-farnesene (71%) followed by (E)-ß-ocimene (9%) and methyl salicylate (8%). Other compounds were: linalool (5%), sabinene (4%), (E)-a-bergamotene (2%), a-pinene (1%), and 3-carene (1%). Interestingly, (E,E)-a-farnesene has previously been associated with pestiferous insects (e.g., Hemiptera). The other compounds are common floral scent constituents in other angiosperms suggesting that our in situ technique was effective. Volatile capture was, therefore, possible without imposing physical harm (e.g., inflorescence detachment) to this rare orchid.

Last Modified: 9/1/2014
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