Interactions of selenium hyperaccumulators and nonaccumulators during cocultivation on seleniferous or nonseleniferous soil – the importance of having good neighbors


Author for correspondence:
Elizabeth A. H. Pilon-Smits
Tel: +1 970 491 4991


  • This study investigated how selenium (Se) affects relationships between Se hyperaccumulator and nonaccumulator species, particularly how plants influence their neighbors’ Se accumulation and growth.
  • Hyperaccumulators Astragalus bisulcatus and Stanleya pinnata and nonaccumulators Astragalus drummondii and Stanleya elata were cocultivated on seleniferous or nonseleniferous soil, or on gravel supplied with different selenate concentrations. The plants were analyzed for growth, Se accumulation and Se speciation. Also, root exudates were analyzed for Se concentration.
  • The hyperaccumulators showed 2.5-fold better growth on seleniferous than on nonseleniferous soil, and up to fourfold better growth with increasing Se supply; the nonaccumulators showed the opposite results. Both hyperaccumulators and nonaccumulators could affect growth (up to threefold) and Se accumulation (up to sixfold) of neighboring plants. Nonaccumulators S. elata and A. drummondii accumulated predominantly (88–95%) organic C-Se-C; the remainder was selenate. S. elata accumulated relatively more C-Se-C and less selenate when growing adjacent to S. pinnata. Both hyperaccumulators released selenocompounds from their roots. A. bisulcatus exudate contained predominantly C-Se-C compounds; no speciation data could be obtained for S. pinnata.
  • Thus, plants can affect Se accumulation in neighbors, and soil Se affects competition and facilitation between plants. This helps to explain why hyperaccumulators are found predominantly on seleniferous soils.