Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Germination response to heat and smoke of 22 Poaceae species from grassy woodlands

S. Clarke A B and K. French A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Institute for Conservation Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Botany 53(5) 445-454
Submitted: 6 February 2004  Accepted: 4 April 2005   Published: 11 August 2005


Grasses form an important component of grassy woodlands, although their response to fire has been understudied. In this study, fire germination responses of 22 Poaceae species from an endangered grassy-woodland community in eastern Australia were investigated. Seeds of 20 native and two exotic species were subjected to heat (no heat, 40, 80 and 120°C) and smoke treatment (10% dilution smoke water) and the percentage germination was compared. Germination response of species showed no consistent pattern to phylogeny and was highly variable. Germination in six species was unaffected by the application of heat or smoke. In five species, heat, irrespective of smoke application, influenced germination. Smoke, irrespective of heat treatment, influenced six species. For a further six species, the effect of smoke varied with temperature. These results suggest that fire regimes will influence the recruitment of grass species differentially and maintaining regional species richness is likely to require the maintenance of a heterogeneous fire regime across the landscape.


We thank Marina Peterson of the Department of Defence whose financial support made this research possible; Lotte von Richter, Cathy Offord and staff of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Mount Annan, who helped with species selection and provided their research laboratory; Lotte von Richter who provided technical assistance in the field and laboratory; and David Keith who provided initial advice on experimental design and commented on earlier drafts of this paper. Jane Wasley assisted with construction of the smoke machine and Belinda Pellow of the Janet Cosh Herbarium assisted with species identification. Jocelyn Howell and Doug Benson provided advice on the grasses of the Cumberland Plain Woodlands.


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