Get access

Reproductive biology of Boswellia serrata, the source of salai guggul, an important gum-resin




Detailed studies were carried out on the phenology, floral biology, pollination ecology and breeding system of Boswellia serrata Roxb. (Burseraceae) the source of ‘salai guggul’. The trees remain leafless during the entire period of flowering and fruiting. The inflorescence is a terminal raceme and produces up to 90 bisexual, actinomorphic flowers. On average a flower produces 10 044 ± 1259 starch-filled pollen grains. About 85% of the fresh pollen grains are viable; the pollen to ovule ratio is 3348 : 1. The stigma is of the wet papillate type. The style is hollow with three flattened stylar canals filled with a secretion product. The stylar canals are bordered by a layer of glandular canal cells. The inner tangential wall of the canal cells shows cellulose thickenings. The ovary is trilocular and bears three ovules, one in each locule. Flowers offer nectar and pollen as rewards to floral visitors. The giant Asian honey bee (Apis dorsata) and A. cerana var. indica(Indian honey bee) are the effective pollinators. The species is self-incompatible and the selfed pollen tubes are inhibited soon after their entry into the stigma. Self-pollen tubes develop a characteristic ‘isthmus’ as a result of enlargement of the tube soon after emergence through the narrow germ pore. Cross-pollinated flowers allowed normal pollen germination and pollen tube growth, and resulted in fruit- and seed-set. Under open pollination fruit-set was only about 10%. Although manual cross-pollinations increased fruit set, it was only up to about 20%. Low fruit set appears to be the result of inadequate cross-pollination and other constraints, presumably limitation of available nutrients. © 2005 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2005, 147, 73–82.