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Children of the giant

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Dr Jane Harbard transfers germinated seed from a petri dish into individual cells of potting mix.  A total of 96 germinants were "pricked out" for use in future genetic studies.­ [Image: Christiana Smethurst]


Prof Rod Griff­in tends the seedlings in the UTAS greenhouse. [Image: Brad Potts]

Offspring of one of the world's tallest flowering plants are flourishing in a greenhouse at the University of Tasmania. Seed collected from the tallest flowering plant, the giant E. regnans tree called Centurion (99.6 m tall,  volume 268 m3) was included in a study of the dynamics of outcrossing in E. regnans.  The seed was collected by Tom Greenwood when the tree was climbed for formal measurment.  The other seed being studied came from 17 trees growing in a 30-year old E. regnans field trial  (see related article in Biobuzz 9).  Using microsatellite data, the levels of self fertilisation and outcrossing in the 18 seedlots was estimated.   The intial analysis of the data suggested that the outcrossing rate of the tall tree was much lower than that found in the "normal" trees. The scientists are unsure whether this is due to the part of the canopy from which the seed was collected in the tall tree compared to the field trial trees, or whether the difference is due to the limitations of pollinators to access flowers or an atypically high level of self-compatibility in the giant tree.  Rod is currently preparing a paper on the effects of inbreeding across the life-cycle of E. regnans, based on the results of his studies extending over 30 years.

Biobuzz issue eleven, May 2010