Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

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

Date:
October 11, 2011
Source:
Smithsonian
Summary:
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.

Michaux’s sumac.
Credit: Lytton Musselman

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.

Related Articles


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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jay F Bolin, Marcus E Jones, Lytton J Musselman. Germination of the federally endangered Michaux's sumac (Rhus michauxii). Native Plants Journal, Volume 12, Number 2, Summer 2011, pp. 119-122 (Article) [link]

Cite This Page:

Smithsonian. "Super-tough seed coat keeps Michaux's sumac on critically endangered list." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111011154457.htm>.
Smithsonian. (2011, October 11). Super-tough seed coat keeps Michaux's sumac on critically endangered list. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111011154457.htm
Smithsonian. "Super-tough seed coat keeps Michaux's sumac on critically endangered list." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111011154457.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins