Biodiv Sci ›› 2012, Vol. 20 ›› Issue (3): 360-367.  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2012.08030

Special Issue: 传粉生物学:理论探讨与初步实践 传粉生物学 昆虫多样性与生态功能

Previous Articles     Next Articles

Scented nectar of Mucuna sempervirens and its ecological function

Gao Chen1,*(), Ruirui Zhang1,2, Kun Dong3,4,5, Weichang Gong1,2, Yongpeng Ma1   

  1. 1 Kunming Botanical Garden, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650201
    2 Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
    3 Yunnan Provincial Engineering and Research Center for Sustainable Utilization of Honeybee Resources, Kunming 650201
    4 Eastern Bee Research Institute, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming 650201
    5 College of Food Science and Technology, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming 650201
  • Received:2012-01-19 Accepted:2012-04-18 Online:2012-05-20 Published:2012-05-09
  • Contact: Gao Chen


Scented nectar secreted by flowers is an interesting natural phenomenon in angiosperms that is often overlooked by most researchers. Scented nectar is an evolutionary feature coupling the behavior between flower-visitors and their rewards. The effect of scented nectar on pollinator or nectar-thief is a scientific problem which deserves further exploration. We evaluated Mucuna sempervirens flowering dynamics, floral nectar volatiles, behaviors of Dremomys pernyi and Callosciurus erythraeus to inflorescence opening, nectar’s attraction effect to Apis cerana cerana, and the toxic effect of M. sempervirens nectar to Tapinoma sp. Aliphatic compounds (87.2%) were the main volatiles in nectar of M. sempervirens, whereas ketones accounted for 56.1% of the total volatiles. Lastly, volatile components with sulfur elements were absent from nectar samples. Previous studies of bat pollinated plant species have found that plants in the genus Mucuna always release sulfur compounds. Additionally, we found that the nectar of M. sempervirens was poisonous to Tapinoma sp. ant species, whereas it attracted A. cerana cerana using the Y olfactory bioassay. Squirrel species (D. pernyi and C. erythraeus) were effective pollinators of M. sempervirens, so we suspected that M. sempervirens might not be pollinated by bats only. This study provides data of pollination mechanisms in Mucuna and provides a new perspective of composition and function study of nectar in other plant groups in future.

Key words: Apis cerana cerana, Mucuna sempervirens, scented nectar, squirrel pollination, Tapinoma