Background and Aims
Recently, molecular approaches have been used to investigate the phylogeny of Oncidiinae. This has resulted in the transfer of taxa previously considered to be species of Oncidium Sw. into Gomesa R. Br. and the re-circumscription of both genera. In this study, the structure of the floral elaiophore (oil gland) is described and compared for Gomesa echinata (Barb. Rodr.) M.W. Chase & N.H. Williams, G. ranifera (Lindl.) M.W. Chase & N.H. Williams, Oncidium amazonicum (Schltr.) M.W. Chase & N.H. Williams and O. oxyceras (Königer & J.G. Weinm.) M.W. Chase & N.H. Williams in order to determine whether phylogenetic revision is supported by differences in its anatomy.
The floral elaiophore structure was examined and compared at three developmental stages (closed bud, first day of anthesis and final stage of anthesis) for all four species using light microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and histochemistry.
In all species investigated, the floral elaiophore occurs on the labellar callus and is of the epithelial type, comprising cuboidal to palisade-like, secretory epidermal cells and a layer of sub-epidermal cells, both tissues enclosing ground parenchyma supplied with collateral vascular bundles and containing idioblasts, often with raphides or phenolic contents. A bi-layered cuticle comprising an outer, lamellate and an inner, reticulate layer is present, and sub-cuticular accumulation of secreted material results in distension of the cuticle. Secretion-filled cavities are present at anthesis in the elaiophore cell walls and, in most species, the outer, tangential walls of the elaiophore have small, peg-like projections that protrude into the cytoplasm. In all taxa examined, the elaiophore organelle complement, especially the smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER), is typical of lipid-secreting cells.
In terms of location, morphology, anatomy and ultrastructure, the floral elaiophores of both Gomesa and Oncidium species examined are very similar, and distinction between these genera is not possible based on elaiophore features alone. Furthermore, many of these elaiophore characters are shared with representatives of other clades of Oncidiinae, including the Ornithocephalus clade. Consequently, elaiophores are considered homoplasious and of limited value in investigating the phylogeny of this subtribe.