Plant and Soil

, Volume 334, Issue 1–2, pp 61–72 | Cite as

Phosphorus accumulation in Proteaceae seeds: a synthesis

  • Philip K. GroomEmail author
  • Byron B. Lamont
Regular Article


The family Proteaceae dominates the nutrient-poor, Mediterranean-climate floristic regions of southwestern Australia (SWA) and the Cape of South Africa. It is well-recognised that mediterranean Proteaceae have comparatively large seeds that are enriched with phosphorus (P), stored mainly as salts of phytic acid in protein globoids. Seed P can contribute up to 48% of the total aboveground P, with the fraction allocated depending on the species fire response. For SWA species, 70–80% of P allocated to fruiting structures is invested in seeds, compared with 30–75% for Cape species, with SWA species storing on average 4.7 times more P per seed at twice the concentration. When soil P is less limiting for growth, seed P reserves may be less important for seedling establishment, and hence plants there tend to produce smaller seeds with less P. For Australian Hakea and Grevillea species the translocation of P from the fruit wall to the seed occurs in the days/weeks before final fruit dry mass is reached, and accounts for 4–36% of seed P. Seed P content increases with the level of serotiny, though it decreases marginally as a fraction of the total reproductive structure. The greater occurrence of serotiny and higher seed P content within the Proteaceae in SWA supports the notion that SWA soils are more P-impoverished than those of the Cape.


Southwestern Australia Cape Floristic Region Seed phosphorus concentration Hakea Grevillea Banksia Protea Leucospermum Serotiny 



This paper was an invited presentation to the ‘Phosphorus as a limiting resource’ workshop held in conjunction with the 35th Annual Conference of the South African Association of Botanists in January 2009. Mike Cramer and Jeremy Midgley kindly provided data for Fig. 1, and Katherine Baker assisted in collating seed weights for the appendix dataset. This paper represents contribution CEDD54-2009 of the Centre for Ecosystem Diversity and Dynamics, Curtin University of Technology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ecosystem Diversity and Dynamics, School of Agriculture and EnvironmentCurtin University of TechnologyPerthAustralia

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