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

A technique to estimate the pre-fire depth of burial of Grevillea seeds by using seedlings after fire

Tony D. Auld A B and Andrew J. Denham A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Biodiversity Conservation Science, Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW), PO Box 1967, Hurstville, NSW 2220, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Botany 53(5) 401-405
Submitted: 10 November 2004  Accepted: 4 April 2005   Published: 11 August 2005


In a glasshouse experiment, we used the shrub Grevillea speciosa to examine the reliability of estimating the depth of seed burial based on the distance from the soil surface to the junction of the swollen hypocotyl with the radicle. We then examined the applicability of the technique in the field by using post-fire seedling emergence. We found that the mean length of the swollen hypocotyl in seedlings was a good predictor of the depth of seed burial (R2 = 0.97). Most variation occurred for seeds buried near the surface at 2-cm depth, where the swollen hypocotyl overestimated the depth of seed burial by about 1 cm. There was a decline in the ability of seeds to successfully emerge from soil depths below 2 cm, with seedlings of G. speciosa able to emerge from soil depths up to 8 cm in the glasshouse. This corresponds with the estimated maximum emergence depth based on seed mass. In the field, seedlings were estimated to have emerged from depths of 1–7 cm after an intense wildfire. There was an approximately normal distribution of seedling emergence depths; however, the mode of this distribution varied among locations. The technique gave comparable results to a similar technique developed for Acacia spp., allowing consideration of a greater range of species and post-fire locations. Use of the technique has the potential to provide insights into the impacts of fires below ground, including the nature of post-fire germination, residual soil seed banks, the depth-related action of fire-induced germination cues and small-scale spatial variation.


We thank Mark Tozer and Paul Mooney for help with field sampling of seedlings, Belinda Kenny for supplying seeds and the Institute for Conservation Biology, University of Wollongong, for the use of glasshouse facilities.


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