Aerial seed bank in a cold desert annual-ephemeral species: Role of anatomical structure of stem and delayed fruit dehiscence in timing of seed dispersal

Juanjuan Lu, Bing Liu, Dunyan Tan, Carol C. Baskin, Jerry M. Baskin

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1 Scopus citations


Why the fruits are retained on dead upright herbaceous plants and how this relates to seed dispersal and timing of germination remain unclear. Stems of the annual Euclidium syriacum (Brassicaceae) with infructescences bearing indehiscent silicles remain upright after plants die in the spring. We investigated the effect of anatomical structures of stem and pedicle and delayed silicle dehiscence on seed dispersal phenology of this species. For comparison, sections were made of the stem of the annual Goldbachia laevigata (Brassicaceae), which has stems that fall over when plants die. Compared to G. laevigata, the stem of E. syriacum has vascular bundles that are closer together, a thicker xylem and phloem, more fibers, a thicker perimedullary zone and a smaller pith diameter:stem diameter ratio. The thickened pedicle did not form an abcission layer. By late October, 5–20% of seeds were dispersed, depending on the position of infructescences on the plant. Snow covered the plants in late autumn and when it melted in mid-April many of the plants had fallen over, with a high number of seeds germinating in attached silicles; seedlings became rooted in soil. After snowmelt, 14–15% of the silicles on the remaining upright plants contained seeds; all seeds were dispersed by early July. The anatomical structures of the stem and pedicle plus the delayed dehiscence of silicles explain the presence of an aerial seed bank in E. syriacum and delay of germination of many of seeds until spring. Further, pieces of upright plants are broken off and dispersed by wind, which helps to explain the wide distribution of E. syriacum in the cold desert.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)260-269
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Species Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the National Meteorological Information Center, China Meteorological Administration, for providing the temperature data.

Funding Information:
The Program for Tianshan Innovative Research Team of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China/Award Number: 2018D14010; Xinjiang Joint Funds of the National Natural Science Foundation of China/Award Number: U1803331, U1603231 Funding information

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Society for the Study of Species Biology


  • Brassicaceae
  • herbaceous species
  • indehiscent fruit
  • seed dispersal
  • seed germination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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