Background and Aims
Floral elaiophores, although widespread amongst orchids, have not previously been described for Maxillariinae sensu lato. Here, two claims that epithelial, floral elaiophores occur in the genus Rudolfiella Hoehne (Bifrenaria clade) are investigated. Presumed elaiophores were compared with those of Oncidiinae Benth. and the floral, resin-secreting tissues of Rhetinantha M.A. Blanco and Heterotaxis Lindl., both genera formerly assigned to Maxillaria Ruiz & Pav. (Maxillariinae sensu stricto).
Putative, floral elaiophore tissue of Rudolfiella picta (Schltr.) Hoehne and floral elaiophores of Oncidium ornithorhynchum H.B.K. were examined by means of light microscopy, histochemistry, scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy.
Key Results and Conclusions
Floral, epithelial elaiophores are present in Rudolfiella picta, indicating, for the first time, that oil secretion occurs amongst members of the Bifrenaria clade (Maxillariinae sensu lato). However, whereas the elaiophore of R. picta is borne upon the labellar callus, the elaiophores of O. ornithorhynchum occur on the lateral lobes of the labellum. In both species, the elaiophore comprises a single layer of palisade secretory cells and parenchymatous, subsecretory tissue. Cell wall cavities are absent from both and there is no evidence of cuticular distension in response to oil accumulation between the outer tangential wall and the overlying cuticle in R. picta. Distension of the cuticle, however, occurs in O. ornithorhynchum. Secretory cells of R. picta contain characteristic, spherical or oval plastids with abundant plastoglobuli and these more closely resemble plastids found in labellar, secretory cells of representatives of Rhetinantha (formerly Maxillaria acuminata Lindl. alliance) than elaiophore plastids of Oncidiinae. In Rhetinantha, such plastids are involved in the synthesis of resin-like material or wax. Despite these differences, the elaiophore anatomy of both R. picta (Bifrenaria clade) and O. ornithorhynchum (Oncidiinae) fundamentally resembles that of several representatives of Oncidiinae. These, in their possession of palisade secretory cells, in turn, resemble the floral elaiophores of certain members of Malpighiaceae, indicating that convergence has occurred here in response to similar pollination pressures.