Oxalis seeds from the Cape Flora have a spectrum of germination strategies

Jooste, Michelle ; Midgley, Guy F. ; Oberlander, Kenneth C. ; Dreyer, Leanne L. (2019)

CITATION: Jooste, M., et al. 2019. Oxalis seeds from the Cape Flora have a spectrum of germination strategies. American Journal of Botany, 106(6):879-893, doi:10.1002/ajb2.1300.

The original publication is available at https://bsapubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com


PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Seed germination strategy has profound ecological and evolutionary consequences, with transitions between germination strategies receiving renewed recent attention. Oxalis from the Cape Flora, South Africa, has seeds with two contrasting germination strategies: orthodox and recalcitrant. The morphological gulf between these strategies (and potential intermediate morphologies) has been poorly quantified, with questions regarding their ecological function and evolution. We reconsidered this binary classification, emphasizing potential intermediate states. METHODS: Seed physiological traits were used to assign strategies to 64 Oxalis species. We tested for morphological/phenological signal corresponding to defined strategies with cluster, principal component, Kmeans clustering and discriminant analyses. KEY RESULTS: We show that an intermediate germination strategy does exist among Cape Oxalis, with two possible morphological groups within each strategy. These could reflect a continuum of germination states, where an ancestral orthodox strategy evolved towards a maximally recalcitrant peak, with a mosaic of intermediate states reflected in extant taxa. CONCLUSIONS: Environmental factors may affect germination strategy and distribution throughout the Cape because recalcitrant and intermediate species are confined to the winter rainfall region. They occupy specialized niches and may face adverse impacts under predicted climate change (hotter and drier winters), meriting focused future conservation.

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