Biology of Floral Scent

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  • 1 University Laval Québec, Canada

Biology of Floral Scent. Natalia Dudreva (Purdue University) and Eran Pichersky (University of Michigan) (eds.). 2006. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 6000 Broken Sound Parkway, NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL 33487-2742. 346 p. $149.95, hardcover. ISBN0-8493-2283-9.

The Biology of Floral Scent will be very appreciated among plant biologists either for teaching activities at the graduate level or as an up-to-date review for researchers. This book can be recommended for the review of the multidisciplinary fields of floral research and should be of interest to horticulturists, plant breeders, plant physiologists, entomologists, and other scientists.

The book is divided into five sections. Each chapter contains a detailed list of references cited and seems to be up to date. Section I, comprised of two chapters, relates to the chemistry of floral scent where the chemical diversity of the floral volatile compounds is presented. The techniques for their detection and identification are detailed.

Section II, comprising three chapters is dedicated to the biochemical and molecular aspects of floral scent. More precisely, regulation processes either at the metabolic or genetic levels are presented in general and more specifically in two distinct chapters for the biosynthesis of volatile terpenes in the flowers of Arabidopsis thaliana as well as a genomic approach of floral scent in rose.

A very interesting Section III deals with cellular and physiological aspects of floral scent synthesis and emission in flowers. In this specific section, the floral scent transport and emission are analyzed through flower, mainly petal, cell wall and specific metabolites, osmophores, epidermal tissues, and specialized structures and organs.

Section IV, which is divided into five chapters, provides very useful information for studies relating to plant-insect interaction and pollination ecology. Chapter 8 provides an overview of the pollination systems and how the chemistry of floral scents is linked to the biology of the principal Invertebrate pollinators and some Vertebrate pollinators. The taxonomic presentation enables the reader to seek specific information on bees, flies, or moths and so on. Emphasis is placed on the phylogenetic, ecological, and ethological aspects of floral chemistry in pollination. The information, provided on the main classes of fatty acid derivatives, terpenoids, and benze-noids as well as nitrogen- and sulfur-containing compounds emitted from flowers, should be useful for people involved in plant breeding and integrated pest management. There is a short section dealing with birds, bats, and moths and with their role as mixed-pollinator systems. There are ten color photos providing a view of several pollinators on different flowers, and these same photos are presented in black and white in subsequent chapters. A short but specific Chapter 9 reviews the interaction of floral scent and butterflies as pollinators. In other words, who does what, and why do plants emit floral scent compounds. An interesting Chapter 10 concerning the sexually deceptive orchids in conjunction with pollinator attraction follows this chapter. Although far from being considered an exhaustive literature survey, emphasis is placed on deceptive orchids occurring in Australia, Europe and the Neotropics. Chapter 11 concerns the coding and detection of flower volatiles in nectar-foraging insects with emphasis on peripheral detection mechanisms of flower molecules and coding of this information. Odors are definite floral attractors, but they also work in conjunction with other cues (color, texture, taste, etc). The purpose of Chapter 12 is to present learning mechanisms that can influence recognition and discrimination of floral odors with examples used by honeybees and moths in particular. In a brief review of insect olfaction, the physiology and mechanisms involved are presented. The final Chapter 13 of Section IV reviews when scent is important, how it works and which subsets of scents are active.

Section V, chapter 14, deals with the commercial aspects of floral scent involving molecular engineering, metabolic pathways, and the implications of metabolic engineering with emphasis on the ecological and physiological effects. This chapter concludes with some potential for challenges to be met in the future.

After reviewing this book, we can no longer look the same way at a honeybee or other insects meticulously visiting each flower time and time again as a haphazard visit. No two flowers are alike. There is definitely more going on within the biology of floral scent.

Blanche Dansereau and Pierre-Mathieu Charest University Laval Québec, Canada

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