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Multicarpellate gynoecia in angiosperms: occurrence, development, organization and architectural constraints



Most angiosperms have gynoecia with two to five carpels. However, more than five carpels (here termed ‘multicarpellate condition’) are present in some representatives of all larger subclades of angiosperms. In such multicarpellate gynoecia, the carpels are in either one or more than one whorl (or series). I focus especially on gynoecia in which the carpels are in a single whorl (or series). In such multicarpellate syncarpous gynoecia, the closure in the centre of the gynoecium is imprecise as a result of slightly irregular development of the carpel flanks. Irregular bumps appear to stuff the remaining holes. In multicarpellate gynoecia, the centre of the remaining floral apex is not involved in carpel morphogenesis, so that this unspent part of the floral apex remains morphologically undifferentiated. It usually becomes enclosed within the gynoecium, but, in some cases, remains exposed and may or may not form simple excrescences. The area within the remaining floral apex is histologically characterized by a parenchyma of simple longitudinal cell rows. In highly multicarpellate gynoecia with the carpels in a whorl, the whorl tends to be deformed into an H-shaped or star-shaped structure by differential growth of the floral sectors, so that carpels become aligned in parallel rows, in which they face each other with the ventral sides. In this way, a fractionated compitum may still be functional. Multicarpellate gynoecia (with the carpels in one whorl or series) occur in at least one species in 37 of the 63 angiosperm orders. In contrast, non-multicarpellate gynoecia are present in at least one species of all 63 orders. The basal condition in angiosperms is more likely non-multicarpellate. Multicarpellate gynoecia are restricted to flowers that are not highly synorganized. In groups with synorganized androecium and gynoecium and in groups with elaborate monosymmetric flowers, multicarpellate gynoecia are lacking. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 174, 1–43.