Original Research

Sporoderm morphogenesis in Euphorbia obesa and Croton gratissimus

M. L. Frean
Bothalia | Vol 14, No 3/4 | a1253 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v14i3/4.1253 | © 1983 M. L. Frean | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 November 1983 | Published: 06 November 1983

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M. L. Frean, Department of Botany, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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Pollen grains of the Euphorbiaceae show a number of pollen types which can be clearly distinguished. Generally different genera are characterized by a specific pollen type.  Euphorbia obesa Hook. f. and Croton gratissimus Burch, subsp.  subgratissimus (Prain) Burtt Davy, represent two genera within the Crotonoideae with different morphology, each type characteristic for the respective genus.

Taxonomically, the genus Euphorbia with apetalous flowers consisting of a naked pistil surrounded by several staminate flowers within a cyathium, is considered more advanced than the genus  Croton. In  Croton the inflorescence is a raceme with unisexual flowers. The floral whorls of the male show numerous anthers and both calyx and a showy corolla are present. Both genera are insect pollinated.

In both  Euphorbia obesa and  Croton gratissimus the pollen wall in section shows columellae, a structure characteristic of angiosperms. However the present ontogenetic studies show that the formation of the columellae differs entirely in the two pollen types. The final stratification of the wall as well as the morphology of the grains differ and evaluation of the exine structure indicates that phylogenetically Croton pollen shows more advanced characters than  Euphorbia — contradicting the floral phylogeny.

This study conducted at light and electron microscope level compares the two pollen types morphologically and ontogenetically, concentrating mainly on the formation of the exine which is tectate-perforate in the prolate tricolpate grain of Euphorbia obesa and semi-tectate in the anaperturate, spheroidal grain of Croton gratissimus.

The aim of the study was to evaluate the significance of pollen characters in taxonomic and phylogenetic relationships within the Euphorbiaceae. The differing pollen morphology which is related to the taxonomic grouping of tribes within the subfamily (Crotonoideae) emphasizes diversity, which may result from physiological adaptation. The study shows that the same functional end may well be achieved in different ways and this may be a factor underlying the diversity in the heterogeneous family Euphorbiaceae.


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