Passiflora Bee Pollination

Insects pollinate the vast majority of the 600 described species of passionflowers and, in most cases these insects are large bees. All bee-pollinated passionflowers have in common long corona filaments that serve as a landing platform. These filaments are generally pigmented in a gradient or banded pattern, which guides the bees to the centre of the flower, where the nectary glands are located. Most of bee-pollinated passionflowers also have a relatively short androgynophore, adapted to the size of the body of the bee. We are interested to study these particular floral characteristics that seem to have been selected by the pollinators. For that we combine the use of X-ray microtomography images with traditional plant physiology and plant molecular biology tools. The InnerWorld of Passionflowers showcases the work of Marcelo Dornelas and his research group at Universidade Estadual de Campinas in Brazil.

This movie shows the opening of a Passiflora edulis flower while a bunch of very busy honey bees rob nectar before the actual pollinator of these species, a carpenter bee (genus Xylocopa) arrives. We also show X-ray microtomography images obtained from freshly collected flowers and flower buds. Passiflora edulis is the species that produce the passion fruit and is native to South America.


To contrast with the modern view obtained by X-ray microtomography, this antique image from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Plate 1989, (1818)) depicting Passiflora edulis is reprinted with permission from The John Innes Centre Historical Collection which contains rare books with botanical paintings and drawings documenting the history of Botany and plant research. For more Passionflowers in the John Innes Centre Historical Collection please follow this link.

This movie shows X-ray microtomography images of flowers and floral buds of Passiflora alata. These species is distributed from Central to South America and its large showy flowers are pollinated by large carpenter bees (genus Xylocopa).

This movie shows X-ray microtomography images of flowers of Passiflora amethystina, a passionflower species native to the Atlantic Rain Forest from South-eastern Brazil. As the area covered by Atlantic Rain Forest is diminishing rapidly, the natural distribution of these species is restricted to some protected areas.