Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Prostanthera - pollination studies

Dr Barry Conn - Principal Research Scientist and Trevor Wilson - PhD student

Part of the research program towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Trevor Wilson (University of Sydney) is to test if pollinators and phylogenetic relationships can be correctly inferred from the design of flowers. It is hoped that it will be possible to infer the evolutionary history of pollination characteristics within Prostanthera and to suggest how pollination has developed within this genus. During the year, the pollination of Prostanthera sieberi, P. rotundifolia and P. lasianthos (all thought to be insect-pollinated), and P. monticola and P. porcata (both presumed to be bird-pollinated) were analysed. It was observed that all of these species attract their expected pollinators, but P. lasianthos also attracts birds, such as silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis) and spinebills (Ancanthorhyncus tenuirostris).

These results are being considered within the framework of a molecular phylogeny, based on ETS nuclear and trnT–F chloroplast data. The monophyly of the bird-pollinated Prostantheras (section Klanderia) and the bird-pollinated group (section Prostanthera) has not received strong support so other genetic markers are being considered. Trevor is co-supervised by Dr Barry Conn of Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, and Murray Henwood (University of Sydney).

T. Wilson ‘bagging’ flowers of Prostanthera rotundifolia on Mt Buffalo, Victoria. Photo: B.J. Conn

Prostanthera porcata, an example of a typical bird-pollinated species of Prostanthera, Budawang Ranges, South Coast, New South Wales. Photo: B.J. Conn