Morphological and functional seed traits of the wild medicinal plant Dioscorea strydomiana, the most threatened yam in the world - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew research repository
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Journal article

Morphological and functional seed traits of the wild medicinal plant Dioscorea strydomiana, the most threatened yam in the world

2019

Abstract

Morphological and functional seed traits have important roles in characterising the species regeneration niche and help to understand the reproductive biology of rare and threatened plants, which can thus support appropriate plant conservation measures. Seed morphometric and dispersal kinetics of the critically endangered Dioscorea strydomiana were measured and compared with those of four other Dioscorea species, and seed germination response under constant temperatures (5–35 °C) was compared with that of the congeneric and widespread D. sylvatica. Seed mass of D. strydomiana (ca. 14 mg) was twice that of D. sylvatica, but similar to or smaller than the other species examined. Seeds of D. strydomiana have the lowest speed of descent and lowest variability in most of the morphological traits considered, suggesting lower phenotypic plasticity but higher variance in the wing-loading value. Seeds of D. strydomiana reached maximum germination at 15 °C (ca. 47%), which decreased slightly to ca. 37% at 25 °C and was completely inhibited at 35 °C. D. sylvatica seeds started to germinate at 10 °C (ca. 3%), reached 75–80% germination at 15–20 °C and maximum (ca. 90%) at 25–30 °C. Base temperatures for germination (Tb) were 9.3 and 5.7 °C, for D. strydomiana and D. sylvatica, respectively. Due to the higher germination percentages of D. sylvatica, ceiling and optimum temperatures could also be modelled for this species, suggesting higher sensitivity to high temperature for seeds of D. strydomiana. The detected poor seed lot quality of D. strydomiana suggests difficulties in reproduction from seed, highlighting the need for further investigation and conservation actions for this threatened yam species.

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