Populations of Plantago lanceolata L. from a variety of habitats in the southeastern United States contaminated with zinc, copper or arsenic (from mining), or lead (from motor vehicle exhaust fumes) were found to be more tolerant to the metals present at the collection site than was a control population from uncontaminated soil. This is the first record of copper or arsenic tolerance in this species. Testing was based on root growth of young seedlings in aqueous solutions of metal salts. In the case of arsenic, there was extremely high tolerance in seedlings from plants in contaminated soils, but the seedlings from plants growing on uncontaminated soil, although severely inhibited on average, contained a few individuals of high tolerance, suggesting a potential for rapid evolution of tolerance to this contaminant.
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