Department of Biology
Dr. Peter Bernhardt
Professor - Ph.D., University of Melbourne, 1981
Phone: (314) 977-7152
Fax: (314) 977-3658
Mail: Department of Biology, St. Louis University, 3507 Laclede Ave. St. Louis, MO 63103-2010
Courses: Plants and Fungi, Ethnobotany, Pollination Biology, Biology and Classification of Orchids
The use of flowers as model systems to study the evolution of reproduction began with the experimental and interpretative work of Charles Darwin in the 19th century. This discipline has grown even more important in the 21st century as it is applied to the investigation of breeding and pollination systems in rare and threatened species. It's a two step process. In the field, we record biochemical and morphological changes over the life span of flowers, identifying and sampling the animals that visit the blossoms and conducting field experiments to determine whether cross-pollination is required to set seed. The plant and animals specimens we bring back to the lab must be analyzed to help answer our questions. We remove and identify the pollen grains carried by prospective pollinators. We employ a series of fix, wash, squash preparations for recording the progress of pollen tubes inside pistils using fluorescence microscopy. All projects are investigated in association with research colleague, Dr. Retha Meier (Dept. of Education; firstname.lastname@example.org). The Bernhardt/Meier lab works with colleagues at the following institutions; the Missouri Botanical Gardens (St. Louis, USA), the Missouri Department of Conservation (St. Louis), the Anderson Prairie Reserve (Welda, Kansas), The Plant Evolution and Systematic Division of the Beijing Academy (Beijing, China), the Royal Botanic Gardens (Sydney, New South Wales), Kings Park and Botanical Gardens (Perth, Western Australia).
Ongoing projects within the Bernhardt/Meier lab include...
1. Pollination and breeding systems of rare and threatened lady's-slipper orchids (Cypripedium and Paphiopedilum) in North America and/or China (in association with Prof. Luo Yi-bo, Beijing Academy).
2. Pollination and breeding systems of the threatened, Mead's milkweed (Asclepias meadii) in Kansas and Missouri (funded by the Missouri Department of Conservation).
3. Pollination and hybridization in the sun orchids (Thelymitra) of Western Australia. Lab support from the Kings Park and Botanical Garden with funding through National Geographic
4. Pollination and breeding systems of a threatened wildflower, the Missouri bladderpod (Physaria filiforme). In association with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
5. Bee-pollination mechanisms in basal Proteaceae (macadamia nut family) belonging to the genera Symphionema and Isopogon (in association with Dr Peter Weston, RBG Sydney).
6. "Darwin's Orchids,
Then and Now." A multi-authored book celebrating the 150'th anniversary of "On the Various Contrivances by Which Orchids Are Fertilised by Insects."
Click on the titles below for information on Dr. Bernhardt's books:
Bermhardt, P., Meier, R. & Vance, N. 2013. Pollination ecology and floral function of Brown's peony (Paeonia brownii) in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, Journal of Pollination Ecology. 1: 9 - 20.
Bernhardt, P. & Edens-Meier, R. 2010. What we think we know vs. what we need to know about orchid pollination and conservation: Cypripedium as a model lineage. Botanical Review 76: 204-219.Edens-Meier, R., Arduser, M., Westhus, E. & Bernhardt, 2011. Pollination ecology of Cypripedium reginae Walter (Orchidaceae): Size Matters. Telopea 13: 327-340.
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. The Journal of The Torrey Botanical Society 138: 287-297.
Edens-Meier, R.M., Vance, N. Luo, Y.B., Li, Peng, Westhus, E. & Bernhardt, P. 2010. Pollen-Pistil interactions in North American and C hinese Cypripedium L. (Orchidaceae). International Journal of Plant Sciences 17: 370-381.
Goldblatt, P., Bernhardt, P., & Manning, J.C. 2009. Adaptive radiation of the putrid perianth: Fly, wasp and beetle pollination in the African genus Ferraria (Iridaceae). Plant Systematics & Evolution 278: 53-65.
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, ZX., 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
Sage, T.K., Hristova-Sarkovksi, K. Koehl, V., Lyew, J., Pontieri, V., Bernhardt, P., Weston, P., Bagham S. & Chiu, G. 2009. Transmitting tissue architecture in basal-relictual angiosperms: Implications for transmitting tissue origins. American Journal of Botany 96: 183-206.
Thien, L.B., Bernhardt, P., Devall, M.S., Chen, Z., Luo, Y., Fan, J., Yuan, L. & Williams, J.H. 2009. Pollination biology of basal angiosperms (ANITA grade). American Journal of Botany 96: 166-182.