The flowers of Marantaceae (∼ 550 species) exhibit a highly derived pollination mechanism within Zingiberales, with a rapid and irreversible style movement based on a close synorganization of different floral parts. Given the complexity of the structure, we assume that little variation is possible if functionality is to be maintained. To test this, we investigated how much floral diversity exists in the clade and whether this diversity potentially influences the breeding system and placement of pollen on the pollinator. Flowers of 66 species covering the five major phylogenetic clades of the family were analysed. All species are similar in their basic flower construction: the fleshy staminode forms the tunnel-shaped roof of the flower and narrows the tube with stiff swellings, and the hooded staminode holds the style under tension and narrows the flower entrance with its trigger appendage. Despite morphological diversity of the pollination apparatus, functionality is maintained by coordinated variation of the fleshy and hooded staminodes. Autogamy is usually avoided by herkogamy. However, in a few exceptions, subtle morphological changes alter the breeding system from allogamy to autogamy. Variable floral proportions allow for differential pollen deposition potentially causing mechanical isolation between sister taxa. This study clearly illustrates that structural variation is not only present in the highly synorganized flowers of Marantaceae, but that it also creates potentially new options for evolutionary diversification. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 168, 300–322.