The promotion of seed germination of Cape Erica species by plant-derived smoke
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): N. A.C. Brown; G. Kotze; P. A. Botha
Publication Year: 1993

Cataloging Information

  • Asteraceae
  • Erica
  • Ericaceae
  • fire management
  • fynbos
  • germination
  • heat
  • Restionaceae
  • seed germination
  • shrubs
  • smoke effects
  • South Africa
  • temperature
  • International
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 35908
Tall Timbers Record Number: 10238
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Fire File
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


The Ericaceae-Ericoideae is one of the three major families defining typical fynbos, the characteristic vegetation type of the Cape Floristic Region. Periodic fires with a frequency of 5 to 40 years are a natural phenomenon in fynbos vegetation. Fire-stimulated seed germination has been reported for a variety of fynbos species, and species in the Asteraceae, Ericaceae, Proteaceae and Restionaceae have shown a germination response to smoke and/or aqueous smoke extracts. In the present study seed of 40 species was screened to obtain an indication of how important the smoke cue is for germination in the Cape Ericaceae. The improved germination following smoke treatment shown by 26 of the 40 species tested suggests that under natural conditions smoke from fynbos fires may provide an important cue for triggering seed germination in this family. The degree of improvement in germination following smoke treatment ranged from 164% in the case of Erica taxifolia to 7571% in the case of E. glauca var. glauca and 8100% in E clavisepala. It is suggested that the nine species which showed a 1000% or more increase in germination following smoke treatment form a group in which smoke is likely to be the major cue for germination. In those species in which there is a lesser response, smoke may be one of a number of germination cues which include heat, the need for 'warm' and cold stratification and alternating high and low incubation temperatures. Many more of the Cape Ericaceae species will have to be investigated in the nursery and in field experiments, before any pattern of response within the family can be elucidated. Amongst the species responding to smoke treatment were a number of species of particular horticultural importance. These include E. curvirostris, E. formosa, E. glomiflora, E. pinea and E. phylicifolia. The smoke treatment ensures a much greater efficiency when propagating from seed and this should make more plants available to the horticulture industry.

Brown, N. A. C., G. Kotze, and P. A. Botha. 1993. The promotion of seed germination of Cape Erica species by plant-derived smoke. Seed Science and Technology, v. 21, p. 573-580.