Variant maturity in seed structures of Pinus albicaulis (Engelm.) and Pinus sibirica (Du Tour): key to a soil seed bank, unusual among conifers?

Authors: Tillman-Sutela, Eila1; Kauppi, Anneli2; Karppinen, Katja3; Tomback, Diana4

Source: Trees, Volume 22, Number 2, April 2008 , pp. 225-236(12)

Publisher: Springer

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The seeds of Cembrae pines are dispersed by nutcrackers (Genus Nucifraga), which cache seeds in soil during autumn. The dispersal and establishment of seedlings via this mutualistic relationship is highly successful. On the other hand, irregular quality of seed crops and lack of detailed knowledge on germination process of Cembrae pine seeds hamper effective seedling production in the nursery. Therefore we studied basic structures and maturity of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm.) and Siberian stone pine (Pinus sibirica Du Tour) seeds, as well as structural changes during a multi-step treatment of whitebark pine seeds, using field emission scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and light microscopy. The most striking differences compared to many other conifer seeds were the solid surface structures, early structural differentiation of the embryo, clustering of the thin-walled megagametophyte cells, and great accumulation of starch in both the untreated and treated seeds. Protein bodies of the embryo were in early developmental stages, whereas in the megagametophyte their stages varied. The number, form and size of lipid bodies also varied within different parts of the seed, and lipids dissolved easily. Our results indicated that despite maturity of the seed coat and advanced differentiation of the embryo, the embryo and the megagametophyte were still immature. These morphological features and a notable proportion of storage reserves remaining in unstable form may, however, be advantageous for maintaining viability and reaching maturity within a soil seed bank. Well-controlled pre-treatment simulating natural conditions should result in improved germination.

Keywords: Pre-treatment; Seed morphology; Stone pines; UV-fluorescence

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Finnish Forest Research Institute, Muhos Research Unit, 91500, Muhos, Finland, Email: 2: Department of Biology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, 90014, Oulu, Finland, Email: 3: Department of Biology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, 90014, Oulu, Finland, Email: 4: Department of Biology, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO, 80217-3364, USA, Email:

Publication date: April 1, 2008

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