Pollinators and Pollination in Southwestern Australian Flora

DRBNats, 10 February 2023

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Byron Lamont AO presented his talk on Pollinators and Pollination in Southwestern Australian Flora on Friday, 10th February 2023, as the first speaker of the year at DRB. His presentation was colourful and spectacular, with many specimens of flowers for people to examine after his talk.

Lamont had taken great care to provide an interesting and colourful slide presentation suitable for all ages to gain information and enthusiasm for the topic. He shared the uniqueness of Southwest of Western Australia (SWWA) demonstrated by having potential pollinators among the fauna, especially birds and marsupials that can carry far more pollen than insects. This unique approach sets SWWA apart from other parts of the world, dependent on insect pollination alone.

Unsurprisingly, as a published author on Hakeas, he used three photographs of different hakea flowers to show insect wasps, birds, and the Honey Possum (Tarsipes rostratus) pollinators. He explained how these small marsupials solely live on nectar and are amazing pollinators for many plants in the banksia woodlands, heathlands, shrublands and open woodlands. His photographs under ultraviolet light showed inflorescences of species in the same genus with quite different pollination approaches. Professor Lamont talked about the maturation of the pollen-bearing anthers before the receptive stigma that promotes direct or indirect pollination; and flower colour change that increases the efficiency of pollination.

He shared using photographs of banksia species hardy enough to withstand significant wear and tear from mammal claws, whilst others entice their insect pollinators. Some orchid flowers mimic the form and odour of female wasps; some trap the pollinator by mimicking those flowers that offer rewards when they offer nothing in the reward of nectar. Acknowledging the audience was mostly aware of the trigger plants, he shared that other flowers hit their insect or bird visitors with force to spread or receive pollen on their heads. He offered statistical information about flowers of some species which contain hydrogen cyanide to deter them from being eaten by non-pollinating herbivores. Also, that 10% of species flower immediately after fire and take advantage of the reduced competition for pollinators and other resources.

Diagram

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Slides from talk – used with permission.

Arlene Quinn

Reference: Groom, P.G. and Lamont, B.B. 2015. Pollination strategies (pp 109-127), Pollination syndromes (pp 128-152). in Plant Life of Southwestern Australia: Adaptations for Survival. Download free from De Gruyter Open, Poland, or Researchgate.