Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Pollination ecology of the Australian cycad Lepidozamia peroffskyana (Zamiaceae)

John A. Hall, Gimme H. Walter, Dana M. Bergstrom and Peter Machin

Australian Journal of Botany 52(3) 333 - 343
Published: 09 June 2004


Experiments carried out to investigate the reproductive ecology of the Australian cycad Lepidozamia peroffskyana (Regal, Bull. Soc. Imp. Nat. Mosc. 1857, 1: 184) revealed that this species is pollinated exclusively by host-specific Tranes weevils (Pascoe 1875). The weevils carry out their life cycle within the tissues of the male cones but also visit the female cones in large numbers. Female cones from which insects (but not wind) was excluded had a pollination rate that was essentially zero. In contrast, female cones from which wind (but not insects) were excluded had a pollination rate comparable with naturally pollinated cones. Assessment of Tranes weevil pollen load indicated that they are effective pollen-carriers. No other potential insect pollinators were observed on cones of L. peroffskyana. Sampling of airborne loads of cycad pollen indicated that wind-dispersed grains were not consistently recorded beyond a 2-m radius surrounding pollen-shedding male cones. The airborne load of cycad pollen in the vicinity of pollination-receptive female cones was minimal, and the spatial distribution of the coning population indicated that receptive female cones did not usually occur close enough to pollen-shedding male cones for airborne transfer of pollen to explain observed natural rates of seed set. These multiple lines of evidence suggest that wind–once considered the only pollination vector for cycads and other gymnosperms–plays only a minimal role in the pollination of L. peroffskyana, if any at all. The global diversity of insects associated with cycads suggests that some lineages of pollinating beetles may have been associated with cycad cones since Mesozoic times.

© CSIRO 2004

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