Brief Communication | Published:


Self-fertilization strategy in an orchid

Naturevolume 441pages945946 (2006) | Download Citation


An orchid that flowers in harsh conditions pollinates itself unassisted by any of the usual agents.


Mating in flowering plants normally relies on animals, wind, gravity or secretion to convey pollen grains from the male (anther) to the female (stigma) organ1,2. Here we describe a new type of self-pollination mechanism in the tree-living orchid Holcoglossum amesianum, in which the bisexual flower turns its anther against gravity through 360° in order to insert pollen into its own stigma cavity — without the aid of any pollinating agent or medium. This mode of self-pollination, which occurs under windless, drought conditions when insects are scarce, adds to the variety of mechanisms that have evolved in angiosperms3,4 to ensure their reproductive success1,5.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Wang, Y. Q., Zhang, D. X., Renner, S. S. & Chen, Z. Y. Nature 431, 39–40 (2004).

  2. 2

    Darwin, C. The Various Contrivances by which Orchids are Fertilised by Insects 2nd edn (Murray, London, 1890).

  3. 3

    Stebbins, G. L. Am. Nat. 91, 337–354 (1957).

  4. 4

    Piper, J. G., Charlesworth, B. & Charlesworth, D. Nature 310, 50–51 (1984).

  5. 5

    Barrett, S. C. H. Nature Rev. Genet. 3, 274–284 (2002).

  6. 6

    Seidenfaden, G. Opera Bot. 114, 441–444 (1992).

  7. 7

    Herlihy, C. R. & Eckert, C. G. Nature 416, 320–323 (2002).

  8. 8

    Holsinger, K. E. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 97, 7037–7042 (2000).

  9. 9

    Dole, J. A. Am. J. Bot. 79, 650–659 (1992).

  10. 10

    Lord, E. M. Bot. Rev. 47, 421–449 (1981).

  11. 11

    Goodwillie, C., Kalisz, S. & Eckert, C. G. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 36, 47–79 (2005).

Download references

Author information


  1. The Center for Biotechnology and BioMedicine, Graduate School at Shenzhen, Tsinghua University, Shenzhen, 518055, China

    • Ke-Wei Liu
    •  & LaiQiang Huang
  2. School of Life Sciences, University of Science & Technology of China, Hefei, 230027, China

    • Ke-Wei Liu
  3. The National Orchid Conservation Center, Shenzhen, 518114, China

    • Zhong-Jian Liu
    • , Li-Qiang Li
    • , Li-Jun Chen
    •  & Guang-Da Tang
  4. College of Forestry, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou, 510642, China

    • Guang-Da Tang


  1. Search for Ke-Wei Liu in:

  2. Search for Zhong-Jian Liu in:

  3. Search for LaiQiang Huang in:

  4. Search for Li-Qiang Li in:

  5. Search for Li-Jun Chen in:

  6. Search for Guang-Da Tang in:

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to LaiQiang Huang.

Supplementary information

About this article

Publication history




Issue Date


Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.