Water response of the hygrochastic skeletons of the true rose of Jericho (Anastatica hierochuntica L.)

Jacob Friedman, Nurit Gunderman, Miri Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The hygrochastic apparatus in Anastatica hierochuntica was investigated from the standpoint of morphology of the skeleton and fruit and its contribution to the regulation of seed dispersal in accordance with the water conditions. Water absorption by the dry skeletons upon shoot immersion under laboratory conditions is a rapid process requiring only a few minutes. It is followed by a slow opening of the curled branches of the skeleton. Maximal opening is attained by the saturated skeletons in approximately 2h. Absorption of water and subsequent opening occur also when only the main root of the skeleton is immersed in water. The process was duplicated also by intact skeletons irrigated in situ. Skeletons closure in response to evaporation is initially slow, noticable curling of the branches obtained only after 60% of the water is lost from the saturated skeletons. Opening of the skeleton exposes most of the fruits to the force of falling raindrops. The fact that no spontaneous opening of fruits occurred under most laboratory procedures of skeleton immersion suggests that in nature two successive processes occur: the skeletons must first uncurl-hygrochasticly so that raindrops can impinge forcefully on the appendages of the fruit valves and thus cause seed release by ombrohydrochory. Under adequate rainfall, the first fruits to open are those at the outer infructescences; heavier rainfall will release seeds from the upper fruits of the inner infructescences, and later, from fruits at their bases. The force that binds the valves of the fruits to the septa is variable, its strength correlated with different structure of the fruist at different positions on the skeleton. This ensures a rate of seed release commensurate with the rainfall, and secures at least a minimum of water for the first seeds. The heterogeneity of skeleton populations insofar as age of the plants is concerned, further ensures that seed dispersal in a given area will be proportional to the amount of rainfall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-301
Number of pages13
JournalOecologia
Volume32
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1978

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