Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 73–82 | Cite as

Butenolide from plant-derived smoke enhances germination and seedling growth of arable weed species

  • Matthew I. Daws
  • Jennifer Davies
  • Hugh W. Pritchard
  • Neville A. C. Brown
  • Johannes Van Staden
Original Paper


We tested the applicability of the recently identified major germination cue from smoke (a butenolide 3-methyl-2Hfuro[2,3-c]pyran-2-one) on 18 weed species from non-fire prone environments. For the study species we compared the relative effectiveness of alternating temperatures, KNO3, GA3, smoke water and the butenolide on germination percentage, germination rate and seedling mass. We found that while smoke stimulated germination in a number of species it also had negative impacts on other species. In addition, the butenolide was effective on the widest range of species in terms of enhancing germination percentage, rate and seedling mass. However, none of the treatments, including butenolide were effective on all species. Our data demonstrate that butenolide may have wide applicability as a germination and seedling growth stimulant irrespective of whether the species come from fire-prone habitats.


Arable weed Butenolide Germination Seed Smoke 



Financial support to M.I. Daws and J. Davies was provided by the Millennium Commission, The Wellcome Trust and Orange plc. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew receives grant-aided support from Defra, UK. J. Van Staden was supported by the National Research Foundation, South Africa.


  1. Adkins SW, Peters NCB (2001) Smoke derived from burnt vegetation stimulates germination of arable weeds. Seed Sci Res 11:213–222Google Scholar
  2. Baskin CC, Baskin JM (1998) Seeds: ecology, biogeography, and evolution of dormancy and germination. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, USAGoogle Scholar
  3. Bewley JD, Black M (1994) Seeds: physiology of development and germination. Plenum Press, New York, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  4. Boucher C, Meets M (2004) Determination of the relative activity of aqueous plant-derived smoke solutions used in seed germination. S Afr J Bot 70:13–318Google Scholar
  5. Bradow JM, Connick WJ Jr, Pepperman AB, Wartelle LH (1990) Germination stimulation in wild oats (Avena fatua L.) by synthetic strigol analogues and gibberellic acid. J Plant Growth Regul 9:35–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown NAC, Botha PA (2004) Smoke seed germination studies and a guide to seed propagation of plants from the major families of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. S Afr J Bot 70:559–581Google Scholar
  7. Brown NAC, Van Staden J, Daws MI, Johnson T (2003) Patterns in the seed germination response to smoke in plants from the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. S Afr J Bot 69:514–525Google Scholar
  8. Daws MI, Burslem DFRP, Crabtree LM, Kirkman P, Mullins CE, Dalling JW (2002) Differences in seed germination responses may promote coexistence of four sympatric Piper species. Funct Ecol 16:258–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Doherty LC, Cohn MA (2000) Seed dormancy in red rice (Oryza sativa). XI. Commercial liquid smoke elicits germination. Seed Sci Res 10:415–421Google Scholar
  10. Drewes FE, Smith MT, Van Staden J (1995) The effect of a plant-derived smoke extract in the germination of light sensitive lettuce seed. Plant Growth Regul 16:205–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Flematti GR, Ghisalberti EL, Dixon KW, Trengove RD (2004) A compound from smoke that promotes seed germination. Science 305:977PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hilton JR (1984) The influence of light and potassium nitrate on the dormancy and germination of Avena fatua L. (wild oat) seed and its ecological significance. New Phytol 96:31–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jain N, Van Staden J (in press) Effects of a smoke-derived butenolide on tomato seed germination and seedling growth. Plant Growth Regul DOI 10.1007/s10725-006-9110-xGoogle Scholar
  14. Kępczyński J, Białecka B, Light M, Van Staden J (2006) Regulation of Avena fatua seed germination by smoke solutions, gibberellin A3 and ethylene. Plant Growth Regul 49:9–16Google Scholar
  15. Kranner I, Birtic S, Anderson KM, Pritchard HW (2006) Glutathione half-cell reduction potential: a universal stress marker and modulator of programmed cell death? Free Radic Biol Med 40:2155–2165PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lange MJP, Lange T (2006) Gibberellin biosynthesis and the regulation of plant development. Plant Biol 8:281–290PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Light ME, Van Staden J (2004) The potential of smoke in seed technology. S Afr J Bot 70:97–101Google Scholar
  18. Maga JA (1988) Smoke in food processing. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USAGoogle Scholar
  19. Merritt DJ, Kristiansen M, Flematti GR, Turner SR, Ghisalberti EL, Trengove RD, Dixon KW (2006) Effects of a butenolide present in smoke on light-mediated germination of Australian Asteraceae. Seed Sci Res 16:29–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pearson TRH, Burslem DFRP, Mullins CE, Dalling JW (2002) Germination ecology of neotropical pioneers: interacting effects of environmental conditions and seed size. Ecology 83:2798–2807Google Scholar
  21. Pons TL (1989) Breaking of seed dormancy by nitrate as a gap detection mechanism. Ann Bot (Lond) 63:139–143Google Scholar
  22. Sparg SG, Kulkarni MG, Light ME, Van Staden J (2005) Improving seedling vigour of indigenous medicinal plants with smoke. Bioresour Technol 96:1323–1330PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Thomas TH, Van Staden J (1995) Dormancy break of celery (Apium graveolens L.) seeds by plant-derived smoke extract. Plant Growth Regul 17:195–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Tompsett PB, Pritchard HW (1998) The effect of chilling and moisture stress on the germination, desiccation tolerance and longevity of Aesculus hippocastanum L. seeds. Ann Bot (Lond) 82:249–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Van Staden J, Brown NAC, Jäger AK, Johnson TA (2000) Smoke as germination cue. Plant Species Biol 15:167–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Van Staden J, Jager AK, Strydom A (1995) Interaction between a plant-derived smoke extract, light and phytohormones on the germination of light-sensitive lettuce seeds. Plant Growth Regul 17:213–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Van Staden J, Jäger AK, Light ME, Burger BV (2004) Isolation of the major germination cue from plant-derived smoke. S Afr J Bot 70:654–659Google Scholar
  28. Van Staden J, Sparg SG, Kulkarni MG, Light ME (2006) Post-germination effects of the smoke-derived compound 3-methyl-2H-furo[2,3-c]pyran-2-one, and its potential as a preconditioning agent. Field Crops Res 98:98–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wang YM, Peng SQ, Zhou Q, Wang MW, Yan CH, Yang HY, Wang GQ (2006) Depletion of intracellular glutathione mediates butenolide-induced cytotoxicity in HepG2 cells. Toxicol Lett 164:231–238PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew I. Daws
    • 1
  • Jennifer Davies
    • 1
  • Hugh W. Pritchard
    • 1
  • Neville A. C. Brown
    • 2
  • Johannes Van Staden
    • 3
  1. 1.Seed Conservation DepartmentRoyal Botanic Gardens KewArdinglyUK
  2. 2.Horticultural Research, Kirstenbosch Research CentreSouth African National Biodiversity InstituteCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Research Centre for Plant Growth and Development, School of Biological and Conservation SciencesUniversity of Kwazulu-NatalScottsvilleSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations