Seed germination biology of the Albany pitcher plant, Cephalotus follicularis
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Cephalotus follicularis is an ecologically unique, taxonomically isolated and range-restricted carnivorous plant that occurs exclusively within vulnerable wetland habitats in coastal south-Western Australia. Very little is known about the reproductive biology of this iconic plant species, particularly in relation to seed dormancy and the specific requirements for germination. This knowledge gap must be filled to facilitate the establishment of conservation and management initiatives for the species, as Cephalotus is increasingly impacted by habitat loss, alteration to natural hydrological and fire regimes and, in recent times, climatic change. This study aimed to determine the type of seed dormancy that the seeds of Cephalotus possess, determine the optimum conditions required for seed germination, and examine the storage behaviour of seeds. The seeds of Cephalotus are small (1.0 × 0.5 mm), lightweight (0.1 mg) and remain indehiscent within a wind-dispersed hairy achene. Results suggest that the seeds may exhibit some sensitivity to desiccation and appear to be short lived (<12 months) when stored at 23°C. Maximum germination was achieved after 16 weeks incubation at 15°C for seeds removed from the protective outer layer of the achene, while seeds retained within the protective outer layer displayed lower germination success. The post-ripening morphological changes in the embryo, limited response to gibberellic acid, and the long time period required for germination suggests that the seeds exhibit morphophysiological dormancy, with a fraction of seeds remaining dormant for a period of time post-dispersal. These results highlight the importance of limiting hydrological alteration within the few remaining habitats that continue to support Cephalotus, but to ensure its long-term protection, further research focusing on phenology and in situ recruitment is required.
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