Journal of chemical ecology

Semen-Like Floral Scents and Pollination Biology of a Sapromyophilous Plant Stemona japonica (Stemonaceae).

PMID 25835570


By emitting scent resembling that of organic material suitable for oviposition and/or consumption by flies, sapromyophilous flowers use these flies as pollinators. To date, intensive scent analyses of such flowers have been restricted to Apocynaceae, Annonaceae, and Araceae. Recent studies have suggested that the wide range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from sapromyophilous flowers play an important role in attracting saprophagous flies by mimicking different types of decomposing substrates (herbivore and carnivore feces, carrion, and the fruiting bodies of fungi, etc.). In this study, we report the flower visitors and the floral VOCs of Stemona japonica (Blume) Miquel, a species native to China. The flowers do not produce rewards, and pollinators were not observed consuming pollen, thus suggesting a deceptive pollination system. Headspace samples of the floral scent were collected via solid-phase micro-extraction and analysed by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. Main floral scent compounds were 1-pyrroline (59.2%), 2-methyl-1-butanol (27.2%), and 3-methyl-1-butanol (8.8%), and resulted in a semen-like odor of blooming flowers. The floral constituents of S. japonica were significantly different from those found in previous sapromyophilous plants. An olfaction test indicated that 1-pyrroline is responsible for the semen-like odor in S. japonica flowers. Main flower visitors were shoot flies of the genus Atherigona (Muscidae). Bioassays using a mixture of all identified floral volatiles revealed that the synthetic volatiles can attract Atherigona flies in natural habitats. Our results suggest that the foul-smelling flowers of S. japonica may represent a new type of sapromyophily through scent mimicry.