Ecological correlates of seed mass variation in Phoradendron juniperinum, a xylem-tapping mistletoe
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- Dawson, T.E. & Ehleringer, J.R. Oecologia (1991) 85: 332. doi:10.1007/BF00320608
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We investigated several ecological correlates of seed mass variation in the hemiparasitic, xylemtapping mistletoe, Phoradendron juniperinum. Mean seed mass varied two-fold among plants between the ages of 4 and 14 years old and was positively correlated with parental plant age. Both the standard deviation and the coefficient of variation in mean seed mass decreased with increasing plant age demonstrating that, on average, younger plants produced seed with more variable mass. Nitrogen concentrations (mg nitrogen per gram of seed) of both the seed and “fruit” (pericarp) were not correlated with mass or the age of the parent plant from which the seed was taken. However, the nitrogen content per seed (mg nitrogen per seed) was positively correlated with the mean seed dry mass and the age of the seed parent, suggesting that the carbon to nitrogen ratio of individual seeds remained relatively constant as seed mass increased and plants grew older. Seed germination ranged between 20% and 86% and was positively correlated with mass and parental plant age. Heavier seeds (seeds from older plants) also had the highest root radicle growth rates. Furthermore, the final root radicle length after 76 d of growth was positively correlated with seed dry mass. When grown on a medium containing an extract prepared from the host plant foliage, all seeds showed lower germination, grew more slowly and had shorter overall root radicles, but had significantly greater development of the haustorial “disks” (the holdfast which forms the host-parasite junction in Phoradendron) than seeds grown on a control medium. Our results suggest that, on average, seeds of greater mass produced by older plants have a greater total resource pool per propagule (fruit + seed). This resource pool may be important in conferring a greater potential for dispersal (fruit), survival, colonization, and establishment.