|The Botanic Garden
of Smith College
he low-growing evergreen shrub broom crowberry (Corema conradii), a member of the crowberry family (Empetraceae), has a disjunct distribution, occurring on sandy or rocky coasts from Nova Scotia to Massachusetts, in the New Jersey pine barrens, and in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York. The only other member of the genus is found across the Atlantic on the Iberian peninsula. Corema conradii is one of the rarest plants in Massachusetts.
Botanic Garden staff have studied germination of Corema conradii, with limited success. Many dozens of trials, including exposure of seeds to smoke to simulate the effect of fires in native environments, produced only sporadic germination (no more than ~5%). Seeds may germinate after sitting 18 months or longer, with no apparent reason.
It is not often that negative research results get reported. It is hoped that continued study will give us a better understanding of factors controlling germination in Corema conradii. Perhaps allelopathy is involved, with germination of seeds being inhibited by surrounding plant debris and detritus. Perhaps ants, which reportedly collect and store the seeds, are involved.
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