Plant Biol (Stuttg) 2007; 9(6): 720-729
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-965614
Research Paper

Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart KG · New York

Floral Scent in Food-Deceptive Orchids: Species Specificity and Sources of Variability

C. C. Salzmann1 , S. Cozzolino2 , F. P. Schiestl1 , 3
  • 1Plant Ecological Genetics, Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zürich, Universitätsstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2Università degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II”, Dipartimento delle Scienze Biologiche, Via Foria 223, Napoli 80139, Italy
  • 3Present address: Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zürich, Zollikerstrasse 107, 8008 Zürich, Switzerland
Further Information

Publication History

Received: February 5, 2007

Accepted: April 14, 2007

Publication Date:
21 September 2007 (online)


One third of all orchid species are deceptive and do not reward their pollinators. Such deceptive orchids are often characterised by unusually high variation in floral signals such as colour and scent. In this study, we investigated the scent composition of two Mediterranean food-deceptive orchids Orchis mascula, Orchis pauciflora, and their hybrid, O. × colemanii. Scent was collected in situ by headspace sorption and was subsequently analysed with gas chromatography and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. We compared variation of odour compounds within and between populations as well as species. We identified 35 floral scent compounds, mainly monoterpenes, which were shared by both species. Both quantitative and qualitative variability within and among populations was high. Many individuals within species could be classified to different “odour-types”. In spite of high qualitative and quantitative intra- and inter-population variability, the species were clearly differentiated in their scent bouquets, whereas most hybrid individuals emitted an intermediate scent.


F. P. Schiestl

Institute of Systematic Botany
University of Zürich

Zollikerstrasse 107

8008 Zürich



Editor: J. Knops