Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Dr. Peter Bernhardt

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Dr. Peter Bernhardt

Research Interests

• Plant Ecology
• Pollination and Breeding Systems
• Orchidaceae - Orchids
• Asclepiadaceae - Milkweeds

Web Page: St. Louis University


Dr. Retha Edens-Meier

Research Interests

• Pollination Ecology
• Science Education
• Asclepiadaceae, Meade's Milkweed

Web Page: St. Louis University

Pollination Biology and Breeding Systems of Threatened and Rare Species. Retha Meier and Peter Bernhardt explore the problems endangered plants may experience when it's time to reproduce. In recent years, projects in the Missouri Ozarks and Kansas dry prairies included studies on Missouri bladderpod (Physaria filiformis), Mead's milkweed (Aeclepias meadii) and two lady's slipper orchids (Cypripedium species). However, the techniques they use in the mid-west are also shared with international colleagues in joint projects with scientific institutions in China (Kunming; slipper orchids) and Australia (Perth and Sydney; sun orchids and members of the macadamia nut family). Pollination studies require a lot of field work and then results are checked in the laboratory using h light, Scanning Electron and Fluorescence. microscopy. Their field studies divide into two parts. Experimental pollinations are performed in the field to see where self or cross pollinations are more efficient producing healthy pollen tubes that penetrate the ovary and fertilize a new generation of seeds. These results are checked with fluorescence analyses. The second half of each study revolves around the diversity, density and behavior of native pollinators. Why do they, or don't they, visit the flowers of rare species? This requires collecting and analyzing flower nectar, flower odors and recording the life-span of flowers on the plants over the flowering season. They also collect and analyze a select number of pollinating insects (beetles, bees, butterflies and flies) to determine whether they transport the pollen of the flowers they visit. Using colorful stains for pollen walls under white light and/or placing insect body parts under the Scanning Electron Microscope allows them to "finger print" actual pollen grains and how they become attached to the pollinator

Selected Publications 

• Bernhardt, P. and R. Edens-Meier. 2010. What we think we know vs. what we need to know about orchid pollination and conservation: Cypripedium L. as a model lineage. Botanical Review 76: 204-219.
• Bernhardt, P. 2008. Gods and Goddesses in the Garden; Greco-Roman Mythology and the Scientific Names of Plants. Rutgers U. Pres
• Edens-Meier, R.E., Joseph, M., Aduser, M., Westhus, E. & Bernhardt, P. 2011. The pollination biology of an annual endemic herb, Physaria filiformis (Brassicaceae), in the Missouri Ozarks following controlled burns. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 138: 287-297.
• Edens-Meier, R.M., Vance, N. Luo, Y.B., Li, Peng, Westhus, E. and Bernhardt, P. 2010. Pollen-Pistil interactions in North American and Chinese Cypripedium L. (Orchidaceae). International Journal of Plant Sciences 17: 370-381.
• Edens-Meier, R., M. Arduser, E. Westhus, and P. Bernhardt. 2011. Pollination ecology of Cypripedium reginae Walter (Orchidaceae): Size Matters. Telopea 13: 327-340.
• Krakos, K., Booth, G.M. and Bernhardt, P., 2010. Mechanical vs. beetle-mediated self-pollination in Gossypium tomentosum (Malvaceae), an endangered shrub. International Journal of Insect Science 2: 35-49.
• Li, J.H., Liu, Z.J., Salazar, G., Bernhardt, P., Perner, H., Tomohisa, Y., Jin, X,H.,. Chung, S.W., Luo, Y.B. 2011. Molecular phylogeny of Cypripedium (Orchidaceae: Cypripedioideae) inferred from multiple nuclear and chloroplast regions. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 61: 3080320.
• Ren, Z-X., Li, DZ, Bernhardt, P. & Wang, H. 2011. Flowers of Cypripedium fargesii (Orchidaceae) fool flat-footed flies (Platypezidae) by faking fungus-infected foliage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 108: 7478-7480.

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