, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 185-192

The promotive effect of smoke derived from burnt native vegetation on seed germination of Western Australian plants

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Exposure of dormant seed to cold smoke derived from burnt native vegetation had a positive influence on germination in one or more seed provenances in 45 out of 94 species of native Western Australian plants that are normally hard to germinate. When tested under controlled conditions some species showed earlier germination in smoke treatments than controls; in others smoke-treated seeds continued to germinate for several weeks after controls had achieved full germination. In the remainder, treated and control seeds germinated to similar time schedules. A group of 23 species which responded positively had previously been recorded as extremely difficult or impossible to germinate using conventional techniques. These included members of the genera Geleznowia (Rutaceae), Hibbertia (Dilleniaceae), Stirlingia (Proteaceae), Verticordia (Myrtaceae), Actinostrobus (Cupressaceae) and Pimelea (Thymelaeaceae). Both large- and small-seeded species were encountered amongst the positively responding taxa, which encompassed representatives of 15 families and 26 genera of dicotyledons, 5 families and 8 genera of monocotyledons and the gymnosperm Actinostrobus acuminatus. Sowing seeds on smoke-fumigated filter papers or watering with aqueous eluates of smoke elicited similar degrees of stimulation of germination, as did exposure to gaseous smoke in a readily germinating species Anigozanthos manglesii (Haemodoraceae) and the normally intractable species Lysinema ciliatum (Epacridaceae). Exposing recently burnt and unburnt natural bushland sites to smoke, smoked water or smoked dry sand elicited a significant germination response in 15 species. Over one third of the species sampled in the burnt site exhibited germination additional to that caused by the fire. Data are discussed in relation to previous germination studies on Australian and other taxa.