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Carbohydrate Reserves of Saw-Palmetto: Seasonal Variation and Effects of Burning

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Carbohydrate reserves of saw-palmetto were measured periodically in burned and unburned plants. In rhizomes of unburned plants, starch was the principal storage carbohydrate, with sucrose, glucose, and fructose present at much lower concentrations. A seasonal cycle in starch showed a high of 37 percent in winter and a low of 27 percent in summer. Total sugar content was about 4 percent, without seasonal changes. Following removal of the fronds by fire, starch content of the rhizome dropped to 1 to 2 percent, whereas sugar content increased to 12 to 14 percent. Total carbohydrate content was lowest in October after the winter burn. Accumulation, mainly as starch, started after October and continued through the winter months. Recovery after a single burn occurred within 4 years. Moisture content of rhizomes increased greatly following burning, probably as a result of increased cellular hydration associated with enzyme conversion of starch to sugar. Saw-palmetto plants on an area reburned three successive summers after a winter burn still retained a carbohydrate content of 12 percent, slightly less than the lowest value following a single winter fire. It appears that timing of repeat fires may be most important if control of saw-palmetto is desired; heavy kill may never be accomplished by fire alone.

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Plant Physiologist, Southern Forest Fire Laboratory, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station, Forest Service, U. S. Dept. of Agric., Macon, Georgia

Publication date: December 1, 1968

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