Chemistry and geographic variation of floral scent in Yucca filamentosa (Agavaceae)

Glenn Svensson, MO Hickman, S Bartram, W Boland, Olle Pellmyr, Robert A Raguso

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79 Citations (SciVal)


We identified volatiles from the floral headspace of Yucca filamentosa using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry and analyzed floral scent composition and variation among populations pollinated by different yucca moth species. Twenty-one scent compounds were repeatedly identified and most could be categorized into two major classes: (1) homoterpenes derived from the sesquiterpene alcohol nerolidol and (2) long chain aliphatic hydrocarbons. Two biosynthetic pathways are thus responsible for the majority of floral volatiles in Y. filamentosa. The homoterpene E-4,8-dimethylnona-1,3,7-triene, which is released systemically by higher plants upon herbivory, was the most abundant compound. Two di-oxygenated compounds not previously reported as floral compounds also were detected. No differentiation in floral scent was observed between populations pollinated by different yucca moths, nor was there any correlation between chemical distance and geographic distance among populations. The total release rate of volatiles differed significantly among populations, but not between populations with different pollinators. The combination of unique compounds and low variation in the fragrance blend may reflect highly selective attraction of obligate pollinators to flowers. The observed lack of differentiation in floral scent can putatively explain high moth-mediated gene flow among sites, but it does not explain conservation of odor composition across populations with different pollinators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1624-1631
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Zoology
  • Biological Sciences


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