Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Chemistry Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #349510

Research Project: Insect, Nematode, and Plant Semiochemical Communication Systems

Location: Chemistry Research

Title: Aspects of the pollination biology of Encyclia tampensis, the commercially exploited butterfly orchid, and Prosthechea cochleata, the endangered clamshell orchid, in south Florida

Author
item RAY, HALEIGH - University Of Florida
item Stuhl, Charles
item KANE, MICHAEL - University Of Florida
item ELLIS, JAMES - University Of Florida
item DANIELS, JARET - University Of Florida
item GILLETT-KAUFMAN, JENNIFER - University Of Florida

Submitted to: PLoS ONE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/7/2019
Publication Date: 4/11/2019
Citation: Ray, H.A., Stuhl, C.J., Kane, M.E., Ellis, J.D., Daniels, J.C., Gillett-Kaufman, J.L. 2019. Aspects of the pollination biology of Encyclia tampensis, the commercially exploited butterfly orchid, and Prosthechea cochleata, the endangered clamshell orchid, in south Florida. PLoS One. 102(1):154-160. https://doi.org/10.1653/024.102.0125.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1653/024.102.0125

Interpretive Summary: Florida is home to over 100 species of orchids, typically in the southernmost areas, as these locations provide ideal growing conditions for many orchid species. Several protected parks and refuges in south Florida provide habitat for these species, over half of which are listed as threatened or endangered. The butterfly orchid, Encyclia tampensis, is a commercially exploited orchid native to Florida. An ARS scientist from Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, FL, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Florida conducted research at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge to gain more information about the pollination biology of the butterfly orchid. Trapping and flower inspection were the sampling methods used to determine that this species can be pollinated by a variety of flower-visiting insects, such as bees, wasps, flies and beetles. Insects were observed on and collected from the orchid flowers. Experiments that prevented insects from visiting the flowers revealed that this species is not capable of self-pollination and requires a pollen vector for seed capsule development. A study site where the butterfly orchid was located and had a higher diversity of blooming non-orchid flowers, exhibited a significantly higher seed capsule formation than orchids at the other locations. This was likely due to the abundance of blooming flowers which could attract more pollinators. Our study indicated that while the butterfly orchid is not capable of self-pollination, it is potentially pollinated by a range of flower-visiting insects. The information collected in our study is useful for conservation efforts for the butterfly orchid, as the orchid faces decline due to habitat loss, pests, and poaching. The use of honey bees is currently being investigated as potential pollinators to advance conservation efforts.

Technical Abstract: Encyclia tampensis, the butterfly orchid, is a commercially exploited, epiphytic orchid native to Florida. We conducted this study in south Florida at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge to gain more information about the pollination biology of E. tampensis. Using active and passive sampling, we determined that this species can be pollinated by a variety of flower-visiting insects, including Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Coleoptera. Insects from all three orders were observed on and collected from the E. tampensis flowers. Experiments using pollinator-exclusion bags revealed that this species is not capable of self-pollination and requires a pollen vector for seed capsule development. Additionally, one of the locations having a much higher diversity of blooming non-orchid flowers was also the location of E. tampensis orchids that exhibited a significantly higher seed capsule formation than orchids at the other three locations sampled, likely due to the presence of additional blooming flowers which could attract more pollinators. Our data are useful for conservation efforts for E. tampensis, as the orchid faces decline due to habitat loss, pests, and poaching.