The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Seed ecology of Captain Cook tree [Cascabela thevetia (L.) Lippold] – germination and longevity

Faiz F. Bebawi A C , Shane D. Campbell A and Robert J. Mayer B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Biosecurity Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Tropical Weeds Research Centre, PO Box 187, Charters Towers, Qld 4820, Australia.

B Agri-Science Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Maroochy Research Station, Mayers Road, Nambour, Qld 4560, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: Faiz.Bebawi@daf.qld.gov.au

The Rangeland Journal 39(4) 307-316 https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ17025
Submitted: 4 April 2017  Accepted: 3 July 2017   Published: 27 July 2017

Abstract

Cascabela thevetia (L.) Lippold (Apocynaceae), commonly known as Captain Cook tree or yellow oleander, has established large infestations in riparian areas along several creeks and rivers in northern Queensland. To better understand the ecology of C. thevetia and the implications for its spread and management, this study reports seven experiments related to the seed ecology of its yellow and peach biotypes. We quantified its germination response to ambient (Experiment 1a and 1b), alternating and constant temperature (Experiment 2a and 2b) regimes and exposure to different light conditions (Experiment 3). Seed longevity under two soil types, two levels of pasture cover and three burial depths was also determined (Experiment 4a and 4b).

Both loose seeds and seeds still within pods (kernels) of the two biotypes of C. thevetia were able to germinate in all months of the year in northern Queensland, irrespective of the large differences in monthly ambient temperatures experienced at the Charters Towers study site. Both biotypes also germinated across a wide range of alternating day/night temperatures from 16/12°C to 47/37°C and constant temperatures from 17°C to 44.0°C. Germination of the two biotypes was significantly greater (4-fold) and faster (7 days earlier) under shade than under natural light conditions. Over all biotypes, soil types, levels of pasture cover and burial depths, no seeds of C. thevetia remained viable after 2 years: longevity was much less in many circumstances.

The results demonstrate that C. thevetia seeds can germinate over a wide temperature range, whereas the ability of seed to remain viable at low temperatures highlights the potential for expansion of its current potential distribution towards southern latitudes of the Australian continent. Across all experimental conditions, the yellow biotype displayed superior seed germination and viability traits compared with the peach biotype. Seed banks of the peach and yellow biotypes of C. thevetia are short-lived (2 years), which may be exploited when developing management strategies to reduce its impacts.

Additional keywords: biotypes, burial depth, temperature requirements, viability, yellow oleander.


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