The staminode is a novel floral organ in Aquilegia, and many questions remain about its development and function. In most species, Aquilegia staminodes develop individually before undergoing post-genital fusion at their margins to form a sheath-like structure around the carpels.
The ecological function of Aquilegia staminodes is not well understood. Late in development, they become lignified and then are dead at maturity, suggesting some sort of protective role for the developing carpels. To assess staminode function in the past, we have conducted field experiments removing staminodes from stands of native flowers. Past experiments have measured treated flower fitness by measuring the seed count and carpel weight (I think), and ongoing work has been investigating the microbiome of staminodes and carpels to determine if the staminodes play a role in mediating the microbial environment of the developing carpel.