The window of desiccation tolerance shown by early-stage germinating seedlings remains open in the resurrection plant, Xerophyta viscosa

Journal Article


Journal Title

PLoS One

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Public Library of Science


University of Cape Town

Resurrection plants are renowned for their vegetative desiccation tolerance (DT). While DT in vegetative tissues is rare in angiosperms, it is ubiquitous in mature orthodox seeds. During germination, seedlings gradually lose DT until they pass a point of no return, after which they can no longer survive dehydration. Here we investigate whether seedlings of the resurrection plant Xerophyta viscosa ever lose the capacity to establish DT. Seedlings from different stages of germination were dehydrated for 48 hours and assessed for their ability to recover upon rehydration. While a transient decline in the ability of X. viscosa seedlings to survive dehydration was observed, at no point during germination was the ability to re-establish DT completely lost in all seedlings. Pre-treatment of seedlings with PEG or sucrose reduced this transient decline, and improved the survival rate at all stages of germination. Additionally, we observed that the trait of poikilochlorophylly (or loss of chlorophyll) observed in adult X. viscosa leaves can be induced throughout seedling development. These results suggest that the window of DT seen in germinating orthodox seeds remains open in X. viscosa seedlings and that vegetative DT in Xerophyta species may have evolved from the ability to retain this program through to adulthood.