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

Reproductive biology of Melaleuca alternifolia (Myrtaceae) 2. Incompatibility and pollen transfer in relation to the breeding system

L. Baskorowati A E , M. W. Moncur B , S. A. Cunningham C , J. C. Doran D and P. J. Kanowski A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A The Fenner School, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

B 19 Sherwin Place, Melba, ACT 2000, Australia.

C CSIRO Entomology, Clunies Ross Street, Black Mountain, Acton, ACT 2601, Australia.

D Australian Tree Seed Centre, CSIRO Plant Industry, PO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: lbaskorowati@yahoo.com

Australian Journal of Botany 58(5) 384-391 https://doi.org/10.1071/BT10036
Submitted: 8 February 2010  Accepted: 31 May 2010   Published: 21 July 2010

Abstract

The onset of stigma receptivity in Melaleuca alternifolia (Maiden & Betche) Cheel was evaluated by observing pollen-tube growth and seed set following controlled pollination. Pollen-tube numbers in the style, following controlled pollinations, increased from Day 1 to Day 6, then declining rapidly. The stigma was most receptive during Days 3–6, and still receptive at low levels as early as shortly after anthesis and as late as 10 days after pollination. The present study found that individuals of M. alternifolia differed in their degree of expression of self-incompatibility. Artificial self-pollination, with emasculation, in several families resulted in complete self-incompatibility, with no capsule retention. The microscopic observation of pollen-tube development revealed a mechanism of self-incompatibility in M. alternifolia. A self-incompatibility system operates in the style, although a few self-pollen grains are capable of germinating and producing pollen tubes. It also appears that late-acting self-incompatibility mechanisms discriminate against self-pollen tubes when they descend to the ovary. Artificial cross-pollination of selected parents produced seed with greater germination capacity and seedlings that grew faster than the corresponding open-pollinated seed and seedlings from the same parent. Freeze-dried pollen stored at -18°C maintained viability (22%) over 1 year of storage. This finding will allow greater flexibility in undertaking controlled pollinations, because stored pollen can be substituted for fresh pollen when insufficient quantities are available from new-season flowers. A wide variety of insects was observed visiting the flowers of M. alternifolia, and capsule set was high even in bags that excluded flower visitors greater than 2 mm. Thrips species seem likely to be important pollinators of this species because they are small and were abundant inside and outside of exclusion bags, although several other insect species such as bees, flies and wasps were also identified as frequent floral visitors.


Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research for awarding a John Allwright Post Graduate Fellowship to the first author. We also thank ANU’s Dr Cheng Huang for assistance with the fluorescence microscopy work, and Dr Emlyn Williams for statistical advice and analyses; and CSIRO Entomology’s Dr Laurence Mound and Mr Kim Pullen for insect identifications. Additional field support and data were provided by Gary Baker (NSW DII), Paul Warburton (CSIRO) and Geoff Davis (GR Davis P/L). Infrastructure support came from ANU, CSIRO, and NSW DII through the RIRDC/ATTIA tea-tree breeding program.


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