Journal Article

Understanding the germination of bulbils from an ecological perspective: a case study on Chinese yam (<i>Dioscorea polystachya</i>)

Jeffrey L. Walck, M. Shea Cofer and Siti N. Hidayati

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 106, issue 6, pages 945-955
Published in print December 2010 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online September 2010 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcq189
Understanding the germination of bulbils from an ecological perspective: a case study on Chinese yam (Dioscorea polystachya)

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

Bulbils serve as a means of vegetative reproduction and of dispersal for many plants; this latter aspect making them analogous to seeds. However, germination of bulbils may differ considerably from seeds due to dissimilar anatomical structures and perhaps environmental cue perception. The few laboratory studies done on bulbils suggest that their germination is similar to that of seeds in the same habitats and to vegetative buds of winter-dormant plants. The present study is the first to examine how bulbil germination is controlled in nature in relation to dispersal (before vs. after winter of the same cohort) and to ambient temperatures.

Methods

Under laboratory conditions, temperature and light requirements for root and shoot emergences from bulbils of Dioscorea polystachya collected in September, 2005, February, 2006 (produced in 2005) and July, 2006 were determined. Effects of cold stratification and dry storage for releasing dormancy were tested on September and July bulbils. The phenology of dormancy release and of root and shoot emergences and the persistence of bulbils in soil were followed over time under field conditions.

Key Results

Although a low percentage of bulbils collected in July or in September produced roots, but no shoots, in the laboratory and field, these roots died within approx. 1 month. Regardless of collection date, cold stratification markedly increased root and shoot emergences. Bulbils sown outdoors in October produced roots and shoots the following March and April, respectively. The soil bulbil bank is short lived.

Conclusions

Bulbils of D. polystachya are similar to seeds of many temperate plants being mostly dormant when dispersed in summer or autumn and overcoming dormancy with cold stratification during winter. Adaptively, bulbil germination primarily occurs in spring at the beginning of a favourable period for survivorship and growth.

Keywords: Aerial tubers; bulbils; Dioscorea polystachya; Dioscoreaceae; dormancy; germination ecology; soil bulbil bank

Journal Article.  8045 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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