Seed dispersal in six species of terrestrial orchids in Biebrza National Park (NE Poland)

Emilia Brzosko, Beata Ostrowiecka, Jarosław Kotowicz, Magdalena Bolesta, Aneta Gromotowicz, Małgorzata Gromotowicz, Anna Orzechowska, Justyna Orzołek, Marta Wojdalska


Knowledge about seed dispersal is required to explain problems in ecology, phylogeography, and conservation biology. Even though seed dispersal is a fundamental mechanism to understand problems at different levels of biological organization (individual, population, species, landscape), it remains one of the least recognized processes. Similar to other groups of plants, very little is known regarding patterns and distances of seed dispersal in orchids. Orchid seeds are generally assumed to be widely dispersed by wind because of their small size and low weight. Between 2006 and 2008, we conducted a field study of the distances at which orchid seeds are dispersed, and determined factors affecting dispersal. Investigations included 13 populations of six terrestrial orchid species – Cypripedium calceolus, Cephalanthera rubra, Epipactis helleborine, Goodyera repens, Neottia ovata, and Platanthera bifolia. To evaluate seed dispersal in orchid populations, 8.5-cm Petri dishes (traps) with self-adhesive paper were placed along transects, starting from a group of fruiting plants, which were considered to be the dispersal source. Seeds of the investigated orchid species were dispersed over relatively short distances. There were statistically significant negative correlations between seed density and distance from the fruiting plants. Seeds of species with taller fruiting shoots were dispersed farther than those with shorter ones (R = 0.68, p < 0.05). We discuss the causes and consequences of the dispersal patterns of orchid seeds.


dispersal vector; long-distance dispersal; short-distance dispersal; terrestrial orchids

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