The growth and mineral nutrition of developing fruits of the perennial Australian legume Hardenbergia violacea (Schneev.) Steam (Fabaceae) was studied using plants from a natural habitat near Rankins Springs, central-western New South Wales, Australia. The accumulation and partitioning of dry matter and 12 mineral nutrients in pods and seeds of fruits is described. Seeds accumulated about 50% of the dry matter of a mature fruit, over 90% of its N and P content, 50 to 75% of its K, Ca, Mn, Cl, S, Zn, Cu and Mg, but less than 50% of its Fe and Na. Over 75 % of the N and P content of pods was redistributed during senescence, although other nutrients and dry matter were not redistributed to the same extent; there was negligible redistribution of Ca, Cl, Na, Fe and Mn from the pod. Redistribution of N and P from the pod could have provided up to 30% of these nutrients accumulated by mature seeds. Concentrations of most nutrients were higher in seeds than pods. The testa made up 60% of the dry matter content of a seed and contained the major proportion of its Ca, Mg, Cl, Na and Mn; the embryo contained most of the seed's contents of N, P, K, S, Zn and Cu.
The elaiosomes had less than 5% of the seed's dry matter and mineral nutrient content. The oil content of the elaiosome was 34%, compared to 12% for the embryo. Oleic acid made up over 60% of the fatty acid content of elaiosome oil. Aspartic acid, arginine and glycine were the major amino acids in the elaiosome. The embryo contained 10% of the non-protein anti-metabolic amino acid, canavanine, the elaiosome only 1%. Sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis showed that the subunit protein compositions of the elaiosome and embryo were different. The composition of the elaiosome is discussed in relation to the nutrition of ants. It is concluded that, in H. violacea, the elaiosome represents a nutritionally cheap means to the plant of achieving secondary seed dispersal by ants.
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