Structure of the zygotic embryos and seedlings of Butia capitata (Arecaceae)
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Butia capitata, an endemic palm of the Brazilian savanna threatened by deforestation, demonstrates low germinability due to seed dormancy. The present study characterizes the structure of the zygotic embryo and describes germination and seedling development. Pyrenes were sown into sandy soil substrates to germinate, and their embryos were also cultivated in vitro in MS medium; structural evaluations were made during their development. Seedling growth through the endocarp germ pore culminates in the protrusion of the cotyledonary petiole, with the root and leaf sheaths subsequently being emitted laterally from its extremity. The embryos are composed of the cotyledon (whose proximal third has a haustorial function) and a diminutive embryo axis that is contained within the cotyledonary petiole. The protoderm, ground meristem, and procambium can be observed in their typical positions in the embryo axis and cotyledon. The development of the vegetative axis could be observed on the second day of in vitro cultivation, with elongation of the embryo axis and the beginning of the differentiation of the first eophyll. Elongation of the cotyledonary petiole and the differentiation of the parenchyma and tracheary elements were observed during the second to fifth day. Although the hypocotyl–radicle axis is less differentiated than the plumule, root protrusion occurs on the eighth day, and the leaf sheaths are only emitted between the twelfth and the sixteenth days; the haustorium atrophied during this stage. The embryonic structure of B. capitata does not impose limitations on seed germination as dormancy is of the non-profound physiological type, and the 50 % elongation of the cotyledonary petiole serves as a morphological indicator of germination.