Smoke and Parasites... and other triggers to break seed dormancy
Dormancy allows seeds to wait out bad times and predict when conditions are most suitable for seedling establishment. Hence the triggers of seed germination will vary with ecosystem and life-history of a species. However, for many species these triggers are largely unknown. For example, for parasitic species like Comandra umbellata (an important native species in Midwestern prairie habitat; shown in the picture), it is thought that root exudates are needed to encourage germination. Other species from fire prone ecosystems appear to be adapted to respond to smoke (specifically, the chemical karrikinolide). For this project we will explore what triggers germination in a number of difficult-to-propagate species, including a number of parasitic species and species important for habitat restoration.