Wendlandia tinctoria (Roxb.) DC. (Rubiaceae), a key nectar source for butterflies during the summer season in the southern Eastern Ghats, Andhra Pradesh, India

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A.J.S. Raju
K.V. Ramana
P.V. Lakshmi


Wendlandia tinctoria is a semi-evergreen tree species. It shows massive flowering for about a month during March-April. The floral characteristics such as the white colour of the flower, lack of odour, short-tubed corolla with deep seated nectar having 15-18% sugar concentration are well tailored for visitation by butterflies. The nectar is hexose-rich and contains the essential amino acids such as arginine and histidine and the non-essential amino acids such as alanine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glysine, hydroxyproline, tyrosine, glutamic acid and serine. The inflorescences with clusters of flowers provide an excellent platform for foraging by butterflies. The flowers are long-lived and attractive to butterflies. A variety of butterflies visit the flowers for nectar and in doing so, they pollinate them. Nymphalids are very diverse and utilize the flowers until exhausted. The flowers being small in size with a small amount of nectar compel the butterflies to do a more laborious search for nectar from a greater number of flowers. But, the clustered state of the flowers is energetically profitable for butterflies to reduce search time and also flight time to collect a good amount of nectar; such a probing behaviour is advantageous for the plant to achieve self- and cross-pollination. Therefore, the study shows that the association between W. tinctoria and butterflies is mutual and such an association is referred to as psychophilous. This plant serves as a key nectar source for butterflies at the study site where floral nectar sources are scarce during the summer season.

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