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Seedling Recruitment in the Long-Lived Perennial, Echinacea angustifolia: A 10-Year Experiment


S. Wagenius, email


Establishment of persistent plant populations may be restricted by limitations on the numbers of seeds, emergence of seedlings, or survival to reproductive maturity. The relative importance of these phases in establishment of new populations, particularly restorations, is poorly understood. In an experiment to quantify seedling emergence and juvenile survival of Echinacea angustifolia during its reintroduction to previously agricultural sites, we evaluated effects of two types of vegetation and prescribed burning at four times relative to sowing. We collected achenes from prairie remnants in western Minnesota, United States, and, each October 2000–2002, overseeded them into nearby study plots either in recently planted stands of native grasses or in oldfields abandoned 40 years earlier. For each cohort, we determined germinability of achenes in the laboratory and, in the field, monitored seedling emergence the following spring and subsequent survival in annual censuses through summer 2009. Germinability ranged from 20 to 37%, varying significantly among collection years. Seedlings emerged in every treatment combination, but emergence rarely exceeded 8% of achenes sown. Burns during the spring prior to sowing tended to enhance emergence, but to differing degrees depending on the year and vegetation. Burning in the spring after sowing reduced emergence. Burning enhanced juvenile survival in restored plots but not in oldfields. Strategies to reintroduce this species should include burning in the spring before sowing, sowing large quantities of seed, avoiding burning in the spring following sowing, and burning at least once within the first 6 years.