Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Super-tough seed coat keeps Michaux's sumac on critically endangered list

12.10.2011
It is one of the rarest shrubs in the southeastern United States, and for scientists trying to save it, the critically endangered Michaux's sumac (Rhus michauxii) is not cooperating.

So far botanists have exposed the hard-, thick-coated seeds of this native North American plant to boiling water, dry heat up to 284 degrees Fahrenheit and flames from a propane blowtorch to try to coax them into germination. Nothing has worked.

"Complete understanding of the germination requirements of endangered plants is an absolute requirement to effectively manage populations," Smithsonian research associate Jay Bolin and botanists Marcus Jones and Lytton Musselman write in a recent paper on this plant in Native Plants Journal.

So far, however, Michaux's sumac has not given up its secrets.

Because Michaux's sumac grows only in areas with few trees where the vegetation has been disturbed, it has long been assumed that its seeds germinate naturally following exposure to the high temperatures of a brush or forest fire. Decline of this plant has been attributed to the prevention and suppression of brush and forest fires by humans.

In Virginia it grows in only two places: on the grounds of the Virginia Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center in Fort Picket, and a mowed railway right-of-way in an undisclosed location.

In a recent series of germination experiments, the scientists exposed different sets of Michaux's sumac seeds to dry heat temperatures of 140, 176, 212, 248 and 284 degrees Fahrenheit, some sets for 5 minutes and other sets for 10 minutes. (The temperatures were determined based on maximum wildfire surface temperatures and burn times recorded in southeastern U.S. forests.)

The researchers found that temperatures above 212 degrees F. killed the seeds. Lower temperatures had virtually no impact on breaking the seed's dormancy.

The highest germination rates—30 percent—occurred after sulfuric acid was poured on Michaux's sumac seeds and allowed to scarify (dissolve and weaken) the seed coats. This finding, from an experiment done in 1996, has led the researchers to their next experiment using birds.

"We are going to feed the seeds to quail and wild turkey to determine if that breaks the seed dormancy," says Bolin, a research associate with the Department of Botany at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and an assistant professor at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C.

Seed passage through the digestive tracts of fruit-eating birds (and exposure to the acid in the bird's stomachs) may break the physical dormancy of these seeds and help disperse them as well, the scientists write.

The paper "Germination of the federally endangered Michaux's sumac (Rhus michauxii)," authored by Jay F Bolin, Marcus E Jones (Norfolk Botanical Garden, Norfolk Va.,) and Lytton J Musselman (Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Va.) appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of Native Plants Journal.

John Gibbons | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.si.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New tool improves beekeepers' overwintering odds and bottom line
19.09.2019 | US Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service

nachricht Elusive compounds of greenhouse gas isolated by Warwick chemists
18.09.2019 | University of Warwick

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Stevens team closes in on 'holy grail' of room temperature quantum computing chips

Photons interact on chip-based system with unprecedented efficiency

To process information, photons must interact. However, these tiny packets of light want nothing to do with each other, each passing by without altering the...

Im Focus: Happy hour for time-resolved crystallography

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.

The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.

Im Focus: Modular OLED light strips

At the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting 2019 (ISAL) in Darmstadt from September 23 to 25, 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, will present OLED light strips of any length with additional functionalities for the first time at booth no. 37.

Almost everyone is familiar with light strips for interior design. LED strips are available by the metre in DIY stores around the corner and are just as often...

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

UMD-led study captures six galaxies undergoing sudden, dramatic transitions

19.09.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Study points to new drug target in fight against cancer

19.09.2019 | Health and Medicine

New tool improves beekeepers' overwintering odds and bottom line

19.09.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>