Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Dormancy release in Australian fire ephemeral seeds during burial increases germination response to smoke water or heat

  • Katherine S. Baker (a1), Kathryn J. Steadman (a1), Julie A. Plummer (a1), David J. Merritt (a2) and Kingsley W. Dixon (a2)...

Fire ephemerals are short-lived plants that primarily germinate after fire. Fresh and laboratory-stored seeds are difficult to germinate ex situ, even in response to fire-related cues such as heat and smoke. Seeds of eight Australian fire ephemeral species were buried in unburnt and recently burnt sites of natural bushland during autumn. Seeds were exhumed after 6 and 12 months and incubated in water and smoke water, either with or without a heat treatment at 70°C for 1 h. Generally, germination did not increase after 6 months of burial, but after 12 months of burial germination was enhanced in seven of the eight species. Actinotus leucocephalus produced higher germination following 12 months of burial without any further treatment, and smoke water and heat further improved germination. The four Gyrostemonaceae species, Codonocarpus cotinifolius, Gyrostemon racemiger, Gyrostemon ramulosus and Tersonia cyathiflora, only germinated in the presence of smoke water, and their germination was enhanced by burial. Burial improved germination in response to a heat treatment in Grevillea scapigera and Alyogyne huegelii seeds, but did not enhance Alyogyne hakeifolia germination. During concurrent dry laboratory storage of seeds at 15°C, only Actinotus leucocephalus produced increased germination in response to smoke water and heat over time. In summary, soil burial can alter the dormancy status of a number of Australian fire ephemeral seeds, rendering them more responsive to germination cues such as smoke water and heat. The requirement for a period of burial before seeds become responsive to smoke and/or heat would ensure that seeds persist in the soil until a subsequent fire, when there is an increase in nutrients available for growth and reduced competition from other plants.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence: Fax: +61 8 6488 1186 Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

T.D. Auld , D.A. Keith and R.A. Bradstock (2000) Patterns in longevity of soil seedbanks in fire-prone communities of south-eastern Australia. Australian Journal of Botany 48, 539548.

K.S. Baker , K.J. Steadman , J.A. Plummer and K.W. Dixon (2005) Seed dormancy and germination responses of nine Australian fire ephemerals. Plant and Soil 277, 345348.

J.M. Baskin and C.C. Baskin (2004) A classification system for seed dormancy. Seed Science Research 14, 116.

R.L. Benech-Arnold , R.A. Sánchez , F. Forcella , B.C. Kruk and C.M. Ghersa (2000) Environmental control of dormancy in weed seed banks in soil. Field Crops Research 67, 105122.

M.P.M. Derkx and C.M. Karssen (1993) Changing sensitivity to light and nitrate but not to gibberellins regulates seasonal dormancy patterns in Sisymbrium officinale seeds. Plant, Cell and Environment 16, 469479.

L.M. Egerton-Warburton (1998) A smoke-induced alteration of the sub-testa cuticle in seeds of the post-fire recruiter, Emmenanthe penduliflora Benth. (Hydrophyllaceae). Journal of Experimental Botany 49, 13171327.

J.M. Halloin (1983) Deterioration resistance mechanisms in seeds. Phytopathology 73, 335339.

P.M. Holmes and R.J. Newton (2004) Patterns of seed persistence in South African fynbos. Plant Ecology 172, 143158.

J.E. Keeley (1987) Role of fire in seed germination of woody taxa in California chaparral. Ecology 68, 434443.

J.E. Keeley and C.J. Fotheringham (1998) Smoke-induced seed germination in California chaparral. Ecology 79, 23202336.

D. Kilian and R.M. Cowling (1992) Comparative seed biology and co-existence of two fynbos shrub species. Journal of Vegetation Science 3, 637646.

R.F. Parsons (1997) Carpobrotus modestus (Aizoaceae), a post-fire pioneer in semi-arid southern Australia. Journal of Arid Environments 37, 453459.

J.S. Pate , N.E. Casson , J. Rullo and J. Kuo (1985) Biology of fire ephemerals of the sand plain of the kwongan of south-western Australia. Austral Journal of Plant Physiology 12, 641655.

M. Pickup , K.L. McDougall and R.J. Whelan (2003) Fire and flood: Soil-stored seed bank and germination ecology in the endangered Carrington Falls Grevillea (Grevillea rivularis Proteaceae). Australin Ecology 28, 128136.

S.M. Pierce , K. Esler and R.M. Cowling (1995) Smoke-induced germination of succulents (Mesembryanthemaceae) from fire-prone and fire-free habitats in South Africa. Oecologia 102, 520522.

S. Roche , K.W. Dixon and J.S. Pate (1997) Seed ageing and smoke: Partner cues in the amelioration of seed dormancy in selected Australian native species. Australian Journal of Botany 45, 783815.

S. Roche , K.W. Dixon and J.S. Pate (1998) For everything a season: Smoke-induced seed germination and seedling recruitment in a Western Australian Banksia woodland. Australian Journal of Ecology 23, 111120.

M. Rossetto , P.K. Weaver and K.W. Dixon (1995) Use of RAPD analysis in devising conservation strategies for the rare and endangered Grevillea scapigera (Proteaceae). Molecular Ecology 4, 321329.

K. Thompson , R.M. Ceriani , J.P. Bakker and R.M. Bekker (2003) Are seed dormancy and persistence in soil related?. Seed Science Research 13, 97100.

A. Tieu , K.A. Dixon , K. Sivasithamparam , J.A. Plummer and I.M. Sieler (1999) Germination of four species of native Western Australian plants using plant-derived smoke. Australian Journal of Botany 47, 207219.

A. Tieu , K.W. Dixon , K.A. Meney and K. Sivasithamparam (2001) Interaction of soil burial and smoke on germination patterns in seeds of selected Australian native plants. Seed Science Research 11, 6976.

L.M. Vleeshouwers , H.J. Bouwmeester and C.M. Karssen (1995) Redefining seed dormancy: an attempt to integrate physiology and ecology. Journal of Ecology 83, 10311037.

G. Wesson and P.F. Wareing (1967) Light requirements of buried seeds. Nature 213, 600601.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Seed Science Research
  • ISSN: 0960-2585
  • EISSN: 1475-2735
  • URL: /core/journals/seed-science-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *