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Techniques and applications of in vitro orchid seed germination


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In nature orchid seeds germinate only following infection by mycorrhizal fungi that provide the developing embryo with water, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. Orchid seeds were first germinated at the base of wild-collected potted orchids, but germination was unreliable and seedling mortality rates were high. In vitro germination techniques, which were developed in the early 1900s, have resulted in more reliable germination and propagation of many orchid taxa. The earliest in vitro orchid seed germination techniques utilized mycorrhizal fungi found in nature to stimulate germination and seedling development. In 1922 Lewis Knudson germinated orchid seeds in vitro by sowing seeds on sterile nutrient medium amended with sucrose. This technique is known as asymbiotic seed germination since no fungal mycobiont is used to promote germination. For both symbiotic and asymbiotic orchid seed germination to be effective, many conditions must be addressed such as photoperiod, temperature, and mineral nutrition. In the case of symbiotic germination, another important factor is fungal compatibility. In recent years, the limitations that seed dormancy poses to the germination of orchid seeds have also been examined. In this chapter techniques and applications of asymbiotic and symbiotic orchid seed germination will be discussed in relation to photoperiod, temperature, nutrition, seed dormancy, and fungal mycobionts.
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Techniques and Applications of In Vitro
Orchid Seed Germination
Philip Joseph Kauth1* • Daniela Dutra1 • Timothy Robert Johnson1 • Scott Lynn Stewart2
Michael E. Kane1 • Wagner Vendrame3
1 Department of Environmental Horticulture, University of Florida, PO Box 110675, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
2 PhytoTechnology Laboratories, 14335 West 97th Terrace, Lenexa, KS 66215, USA
3 Tropical Research and Education Center, University of Florida, 18905 SW 280th Street, Homestead, FL 33031-3314, USA
Corresponding author: *
Keywords: asymbiotic, cryopreservation, dormancy, mycobiont, mycorrhiza, symbiotic
In nature orchid seeds germinate only following infection by mycorrhizal fungi that provide the developing embryo with water, carbohydrates,
minerals, and vitamins. Orchid seeds were first germinated at the base of wild-collected potted orchids, but germination was unreliable and
seedling mortality rates were high. In vitro germination techniques, which were developed in the early 1900s, have resulted in more reliable
germination and propagation of many orchid taxa. The earliest in vitro orchid seed germination techniques utilized mycorrhizal fungi found in
nature to stimulate germination and seedling development. In 1922 Lewis Knudson germinated orchid seeds in vitro by sowing seeds on sterile
nutrient medium amended with sucrose. This technique is known as asymbiotic seed germination since no fungal mycobiont is used to promote
germination. For both symbiotic and asymbiotic orchid seed germination to be effective, many conditions must be addressed such as
photoperiod, temperature, and mineral nutrition. In the case of symbiotic germination, another important factor is fungal compatibility. In recent
years, the limitations that seed dormancy poses to the germination of orchid seeds have also been examined. In this chapter techniques and
applications of asymbiotic and symbiotic orchid seed germination will be discussed in relation to photoperiod, temperature, nutrition, seed
dormancy, and fungal mycobionts.
Perhaps no plant family is as intriguing and complex as the Orchidaceae. The Orchidaceae is the largest family of plants with 17,000-35,000
species (Dressler 1993). Members of this family are found on every continent except Antarctica, with the highest diversity in tropical regions of
Southeast Asia, South America, and Central America. Seventy percent of all orchid species are epiphytes, but terrestrial, aquatic, and lithophytic
species can also be found (Dressler 1993).
A defining characteristic of orchids is their seeds, which are adapted for wind dispersal. Orchid seeds are incredibly small and contain an
undifferentiated embryo that lacks enzymes to metabolize polysaccharides (Manning and van Staden 1987; Molvray and Kores 1995). The testa
(seed coat) of orchid seeds is often hard, yet thin (Molvray and Kores 1995). Sugars are present in orchid embryos in the form of sucrose,
fructose, maltose, rhamnose, and glucose, but these sugars are either utilized fully prior to germination or are present in insufficient quantities to
support and sustain germination (Manning and van Staden 1987). Although seeds utilize lipids and proteins as the major nutrient source,
embryos also lack enzymes to convert lipids to soluble sugars (Manning and van Staden 1987). Since orchid seeds can not metabolize
polysaccharides and lipid, they utilize a mycorrhizal relationship with compatible fungi (=mycobiont) during germination and early development
(Rasmussen et al. 1990a). Following penetration of the embryo, mycobionts provide embryos with water, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins
(Rasmussen 1992; Yoder et al. 2000). Mycobionts are important for the initiation of seed germination by stimulating glucose and enzyme
production, reserve mobilization, and post-germination nutrient support (Manning and van Staden 1987).
In the past 15 years, great advances have been made in the effectiveness of in vitro orchid seed germination. In this chapter, we provide a
brief history of orchid seed germination followed by discussion of methods, techniques, and current issues regarding both asymbiotic and
symbiotic germination. Although several important older articles are discussed, the majority of cited articles have been published in the past 15
Abbreviations: 2-iP, 6-(α,α-dimethylallylamino)-purine; ABA, abscisic acid; BA, benzyladenine; CMA, corn meal agar; DAP, days after pollination; GA, gibberellic acid;
K, kinetin; LN, liquid nitrogen; NAA, naphthalene acetic acid; OMA, oat meal agar; PDA, potato dextrose agar; PGR, plant growth regulator; TDZ, thidiazuron; TZ,
tetrazolium; WAP , weeks after pollination; Z, zeatin
Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
The species diversity in the Orchidaceae can also be seen in the diverse shapes, sizes, and patterns of the seeds as well. Orchid seeds are very
minute and range in length from 0.05 to 6 mm, 0.01 to 0.93 mm in width, and weigh 0.3 to 14 µg (Arditti, 1967; Arditti and Ghani 2000). Seed
capsules may hold anywhere between 1,300 to 4 million seeds (Arditti 1967). Shapes are also various including filiform, fusiform, clavate, and
ellipsoidal seeds (Molvray and Kores 1995).
Orchid seeds share a common characteristic of a reduced embryo and the absence of endosperm (Prutsch et al. 2000), with the exception
of Sobralia and Bletilla seeds that have a rudimentary cotyledon (Arditti 1967). These characteristics lead to various surface depressions and
sculpturing patterns in the testa, which in turn increase the resistance to air and allow seeds to remain air-borne or floating on water for long
periods (Prutsch et al. 2000). The testa is normally derived from the outer integument, but as in the case of Paphiopedilum delenatii the testa is
derived from both the inner and outer integument (Molvray and Kores 1995; Lee et al. 2006). In most species the testa is usually only one cell
thick, but made up of 20 to 600 cells (Molvray and Kores 1995; Prutsch et al. 2000).
The embryo is attached to the testa by several strands or cells, contains dense cytoplasm, and consists of as few as ten cells (Stoutamire
1964). At early globular stages, plastids with starch are visible, but soon disappear during the mature globular stage (Lee et al. 2006). Durng the
mature globular stage, the starch plastids are replaced by lipid and protein bodies (Lee et al. 2006). Cuticular substances appear in the surface
wall cells of the embryo during the early globular stage, but are free from the suspensor region (Lee et al. 2006). The suspensor serves as a
channel for free movement of nutrients and water as well as a food storage site for the embryo (Yeung et al. 1996). The two-cell thick inner
integument (carapace) dehydrates and compresses around the embryo at full maturity (Lee et al. 2005). A layer inside the inner integument
becomes cutinized and a layer outside the inner integument becomes lignified at seed maturity (Yamazaki and Miyoshi 2006). The lignification
and cutinization may serve to strengthen the carapace, while the tight fitting carapace may inhibit embryo growth by restricting growth
mechanically or chemically (Yamazaki and Miyoshi 2006).
Interest in orchid seed germination began in the 1800s. Early attempts to initiate germination involved placing seeds onto organic substances
such as sphagnum moss, bark, or leaf mold, but this often proved unsuccessful (Arditti 1967). Another method utilized by early growers was to
germinate seeds in pots with the wild-collected mother plants. Bernard and Burgeff were the first to recognize the role of fungi in orchid seed
germination by co-culturing fungi with orchid seeds (=symbiotic germination) (Bernard 1899; Burgeff 1909). They experimented with symbiotic
seed germination, which is the co-culture of fungi with orchid seeds. Although seeds did not germinate readily, they concluded that orchid seeds
could germinate in vitro in the presence of an appropriate mycorrhizal fungus (Knudson 1922). Bernard, however, did germinate seeds of
Cattleya and Laelia in the absence of a fungus by placing seeds on salep, a powder obtained from tubers of Ophrys (Knudson 1922; Arditti
Based on initial experiments by Bernard and Burgeff, Lewis Knudson further examined orchid seed germination. Using nutrient solutions
supplemented with 1% sucrose, Knudson (1922) successfully germinated seeds of several epiphytic orchid genera. From these initial
experiments Knudson demonstrated that orchid seeds could germinate in vitro without a mycorrhizal fungus (=asymbiotic germination). To
germinate seeds that did not readily germinate in his early studies, Knudson developed solution C, which is widely used as Knudson C Medium
(Knudson 1946).
Asymbiotic germination represents an ideal system for studying the growth and development of orchid seeds and seedlings. Although the
first asymbiotic seed germination experiments focused on tropical orchids, research in the past 20 years has grown to include terrestrial species.
While asymbiotic germination is often a more popular technique for orchid seed germination, symbiotic seed germination has recently gained
popularity for conservation and restoration projects. Factors such as photoperiod, temperature, and culture media, as well as seed dormancy
may influence rates of both asymbiotic and symbiotic germination. More recent research has not only examined germination, but the subsequent
growth and development of protocorms and seedlings (Fig. 1).
Since Knudson demonstrated the feasibility of asymbiotic germination, the role of mineral nutrition in tropical orchid seed germination has been
researched extensively. Many different culture media have been developed since Knudson’s original formula was published (see Table 1 for
examples). Although many of these media have only minor differences in composition, growth and development of species may be significantly
affected. The majority of research on mineral nutrition requirements of orchid seeds was conducted prior to 1970. The roles nitrogen form and
concentration, carbohydrate source, vitamins, and plant growth regulators (PGRs) play in asymbiotic germination were examined in earlier
studies. More recently the role of individual media components have not been as extensively investigated, but rather commercially prepared
media are often used to conduct screens to obtain satisfactory germination. Such studies also focused on characterizing the growth and
development of protocorms and seedlings to more precisely track growth rates (Tab le 2 ).
4.1. Nitrogen
Nitrogen has long been considered as an important role in the germination of orchid seeds. Recent reports have shown that while one
asymbiotic culture media may support initial germination, another medium may better support subsequent development. Stenberg and Kane
(1998) and Kauth et al. (2006) reported high seed germination of Encyclia boothiana var. erythronioides and Calopogon tuberosus, respectively,
on Knudson C (Knudson 1946). The high germination percentages on Knudson C were attributed to high ammonium content, which can be
utilized by seeds during early germination and development (Stenberg and Kane 1998; Kauth et al. 2006). Seedling fresh weight of Cattleya and
Cymbidium hybrids was greater when grown on a medium with a high ratio of ammonium to nitrate (Curtis and Spoerl 1948).
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
While Knudson C also promoted seedling development of E.
boothiana (Stenberg and Kane 1998), C. tuberosus seedlings
developed to more advanced stages on P723 Orchid Seed
Sowing Medium (PhytoTechnology Laboratories, Inc., Shawnee
Mission, KS) rather than on Knudson C (Kauth et al. 2006). The
limited development of C. tuberosus on Knudson C was attrib-
uted to a high nitrate concentration and the inability of the proto-
corms to utilize nitrates during early growth and development
(Raghavan and Torrey 1964). Peptone, an organic nitrogen
source present in P723, may have contributed to the increased
seedling development by supplying auxin-like compounds or
various amino acids (Curtis 1947; Kauth et al. 2006). However
peptone responses may be species specific. Seed germination
percentages of Paphiopedilum insigne and P. hirsutissimum
were approximately 30% higher with peptone than without
peptone (Curtis 1947). Adversely, seed germination of Phaius
grandiflorus and Habenaria clavellata (renamed to Platanthera
clavellata) was hindered in the presence of peptone. Increased
uniformity of seedling development was also observed in seed-
lings cultured in the presence of peptone (Curtis 1947).
Although ammonium was found beneficial in asymbiotic
germination of E. boothiana var. erythronioides and C. tubero-
sus, seed germination of other terrestrial orchids may be inhib-
ited by it. Germination and growth of Dactylorhiza incarnata
seeds, a European terrestrial orchid, were reduced in the pre-
sence of ammonium (Dijk and Eck 1995b). Dijk and Eck (1995a)
also found that as nitrogen concentration increased, protocorm
weight decreased in two species of Dactylorhiza. Likewise, a
high ratio of ammonium to nitrate reduced the germination of
Vanda tricolor (Curtis and Spoerl 1948).
Amino acids have also been used as a substitute nitrogen
source. Raghavan (1964) reported that only certain amino acids
increase seed germination of Cattleya. Glycine, the simplest
amino acid, decreased overall germination of Cattleya seeds
from 53% to 41%. However, germination in the presence of argi-
nine, proline, and glutamine was similar to that with ammonium
nitrate (Raghavan 1964). Spoerl and Curtis (1948) also reported
that glycine significantly reduced germination of Cattleya seeds
after 2 months when compared with other amino acids. How-
ever, after 5 months germination in the presence of glycine
increased from 22.5% to 64%. Amino acid enzyme systems
within developing embryos change over time. Amino acids may not be available as initial nitrogen sources, but may be metabolized after a
certain period of time (Spoerl and Curtis 1948). Various orchid species respond differently to various amino acids during germination, and
therefore further investigation should be carried out. Since not all amino acids are beneficial for seed germination, combinations of amino acids
may increase germination (Spoerl and Curtis 1948).
Edamin, a lactalbumin hydrolysate with peptides and 18 amino acids, increased the germination of a Cattleya × Laelia hybrid (Ziegler et al.
1967). On the media with Edamin, embryos became green faster and seedling dry weight was greater than seedlings cultured on media without
Edamin. Tissue analysis of seedlings cultured on Edamin yielded increased levels of amino acids. Glutamine, asparagine, and gamma amino
butyric acid were detected in seedling tissue, but these amino acids were not found in Edamin. Complex organic nitrogen sources such as
Edamin might be used an amino acid building component (Ziegler et al. 1967).
Majerowicz et al. (2000) reported increased growth of Catasetum fimbriatum seedlings in the presence of the amino acid glutamine, over
media containing ammonium or nitrate. Stewart and Kane (2006a) reported improved germination and subsequent development of Habenaria
macroceratitis on Malmgren Modified Terrestrial Orchid Medium (Malmgren 1996). Malmgren Modified Terrestrial Orchid Medium as prepared by
PhytoTechnology Laboratories, Inc. is a low mineral salt medium with glycine as the sole nitrogen source. Researchers have suggested that
nitrogen in the form of amino acids may be more readily available to germinating seeds or developing protocorms than inorganic nitrogen
sources (van Waes and Debergh 1986b; Malmgren 1993; Anderson 1996; Malmgren 1996; Stewart and Kane 2006a). When inorganic nitrogen,
such as ammonium, is utilized by germinating seeds, the nitrogen is converted to amino acids (Majerowicz et al. 2000). Using amino acids as the
sole nitrogen source in orchid seed germination may lead to more efficient nitrogen assimilation by bypassing certain nitrogen conversion steps;
however, this may be species specific and should be further investigated.
4.2. Carbohydrates
The role of carbohydrates in orchid seed germination has long been studied. Since orchid seeds have minimal carbohydrate reserves, an
Table 1 Comparative mineral salt content of commonly used asymbiotic orchid seed
germination media: Knudson C (KC), Malmgren Modified Terrestrial Orchid Medium
(MM), PhytoTechnology Orchid Seed Sowing Medium (P723), Murashige and Skoog
(MS), Vacin and Went (VW). Formulations based on those provided by PhytoTechnology
Laboratories, LLC.
Macronutrients (mM)
Ammonium 13.82 5.15 10.31 7.57
Calcium 2.12 0.24 0.75 1.50 1.93
Chlorine 3.35 1.50 1.50
Magnesium 1.01 0.81 0.62 0.75 1.01
Nitrate 10.49 9.85 19.70 5.19
Potassium 5.19 0.55 5.01 10.02 7.03
Phosphate 1.84 0.71 0.31 0.63 3.13
Sulfate 4.91 0.92 0.71 0.86 4.92
Sodium 0.20 0.10 1.51 0.20
Micronutrients (μM)
Boron 30 50
Cobalt 0.03 0.11
Copper 0.03 0.10
Iron 90 100 50 50 100
Iodine 1.20 2.50
Manganese 30 10 30 37.90 30
Molybdenum 26 0.52
Zinc 9.20 30.00
Undefined Organics (mg/l)
Biotin 0.05
Casein hybrolysate 400
Folic acid 0.5
Glycine 2.0
Myo-inositol 100 100
Nicotonic acid 1.0
Peptone 2000
Pyridoxine 1.0
Thiamine 10
Total N (mM) 24.31 n/a unknown 30.01 12.76
NH4:NO3 1.32 n/a 0.52 0.52 1.46
Table 2 Developmental stages of orchid seed germination (from Stenberg
and Kane 1998; Stewart and Zettler 2002).
Stage Description
0 No germination, viable embryo
1 Imbibed embryo, still covered by testa (=germination)
2 Embryo enlargement, testa rupture
3 Appearance of protomeristem
4 Elongation of protomersitem; emergence of first true leaf
5 Elongation of first true leaf
6 Appearance of second leaf
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
exogenous source of carbohydrate is required for in vitro orchid seed germination. Two sources of carbohydrates are available to the
germinating embryo during the first stages of development in nature: carbohydrates in the embryo, and those obtained from the mycorrhizal
fungi (Rasmussen 1995). Some orchid seeds contain glucoproteins that may release glucose upon hydrolyzation, which could explain why some
orchid seeds germinate in water (Rasmussen 1995).
Ernst and Arditti (1990) reported that Phalaenopsis seedlings germinated in the presence of many carbohydrate sources including glucose,
a simple sugar, and maltoheptaose, a long chain sugar. Germination percentage and seedling development was highest on glucose, with fewer
seeds germinating on maltooligosaccharides. Although seeds did not develop past the protocorm stage without sugar or at least a low
concentration, endogenous carbohydrates must have been present to support early germination and development. After 6 months culture,
seedlings cultured on glucose had higher fresh weights and survival than seedlings cultured on long-chain carbohydrates. The lower fresh weight
of Phalaenopsis seedlings cultured with long-chain carbohydrates may be caused by insufficient enzymes responsible for breaking bonds in
these carbohydrates (Ernst and Arditti 1990).
There are several widely accepted concepts regarding the relationship between orchid seed germination and photoperiod. For example, the
notion that epiphytic orchids require light and terrestrial species require darkness for germination is widely accepted. However, germination
responses to photoperiods are often species specific, regardless of growth habit. Although initial germination may be greater in a particular
photoperiod, protocorm and seedling development may advance more quickly under a different environmental regime. When determining an
appropriate photoperiod, the growing conditions that a species encounters in situ should be considered with emphasis on the timing of seed
dispersal. However, researchers often do not consider natural conditions when using photoperiods in germination studies. Recently, the effect of
photoperiod on germination and development has been examined.
Fig. 1 Scanning electron microscopy of seed germination and subsequent development in a Van da hybrid. (A) Stage 0 ungerminated seed; Scale bar = 100 µm.
(B) Stage 2 protocorm; Scale bar = 100 µm. (C) Stage 3 protocorm; PM = protomersitem; Scale bar = 1 mm. (D) Stage 4 protocorm; FL = first leaf; RZ = rhizoids; Scale bar
= 1 mm. (E) Stage 5 protocorm; RT = root; Scale bar = 1 mm. (F) Stage 6 seedling; SL = second leaf; Scale bar = 1 mm. (Photographic plate by T. Johnson).
Floriculture, Ornamental and Plant Biotechnology Volume V ©2008 Global Science Books, UK
Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
Fig. 2 Asymbiotic germination of Calopogon tuberosus var. tuberosus seeds after 8 weeks culture. Seeds were cultured in either continual darkness (Dark) or a
16/8 h L/D photoperiod (Light) for 8 weeks. Histobars with the same letter within developmental stages and total germination are not significantly different (α = 0.05). KC-
Knudson C Medium; MM-Malmgren Modified Terrestrial Orchid Medium; P723-PhytoTechnolgy Orchid Seed Sowing Medium. (Data from Kauth 2005; Kauth et al. 2006;
with kind permission of Springer).
Complete darkness is often considered to promote germination of terrestrial orchids. Several explanations have been offered regarding this
relationship, but further studies are needed. Upon dehiscence, seeds of terrestrial orchids may not germinate until they are buried (Rasmussen
and Rasmussen 1991). Many terrestrial orchids also grow in more shaded environments than their epiphytic counterparts (Rasmussen 1995),
and light may not reach the habitat floor as readily (Rasmussen and Rasmussen 1991).
van Waes and Debergh (1986b) reported that even small increases in light intensity from complete darkness to 1.2 µmol m-2 s-1 reduced
germination of several European terrestrial orchids. Asymbiotic germination of Cypripedium acaule, a North American terrestrial orchid, was
lower when seeds were incubated in a 16/8 h photoperiod (6.7% germination) compared to complete darkness (96.7%) (St-Arnaud et al. 1992).
In addition, all embryos developed leaves in darkness, but only 60% of the embryos in the 16/8 h photoperiod developed leaves (St-Arnaud et al.
1992). Zettler and Hofer (1997) reported a significant decrease in germination when S. odorata seeds were exposed to a brief period of
illumination. Germination in complete darkness for three weeks was greater than germination of seeds exposed to either 7 days of an 8/16 h or
14/10 h photoperiod, and then placed in darkness for 2 weeks. Stewart and Kane (2006a) reported that light inhibited asymbiotic germination
and development of Habenaria macroceratitis. Although protocorms developed to a leaf-bearing stage in all photoperiod treatments, over 90% of
the protocorms developed leaves in complete darkness.
The aforementioned terrestrial orchids all inhabit shaded areas. Cypripedium acaule typically grows under shaded forests, S. odorata
inhabits dark floodplains, and H. macroceratitis is found in shaded hardwood hammocks (P. Kauth, pers. obs.). In all three species, seed
dispersal occurs in fall or winter when the natural photoperiod and light intensity is shorter and lower than late spring or summer. If seeds
germinate upon dispersal, the reduced photoperiod as well as the shaded environment may contribute to increased germination percentages.
Although seeds of each species will germinate when illuminated, a short duration of illumination is sufficient to decrease germination (St-Arnaud
et al. 1992; Zettler and Hofer 1997; Stewart and Kane 2006a).
Protocorms cultured in complete darkness often produce more rhizoids than those in light (Stewart and Kane 2006a). Rhizoids, which are
sites of fungal infections, may not be produced until seeds/protocorms are buried and likely to encounter fungal mycobionts (Rasmussen 1995).
Rhizoid inhibition under light conditions may prevent protocorm death by preventing the mobilization of valuable energy reserves prior to
encountering conditions of likely mycorrhizal infection (Stewart and Kane 2006a).
Stoutamire (1974) suggested that bog-inhabiting North American terrestrial orchids that are adapted to an open canopy are less sensitive to
light. Kauth et al. (2006) found evidence for this with seeds of Calopogon tuberosus var. tuberosus, a North American terrestrial orchid.
Calopogon tuberosus not only inhabits bogs, but also grows in areas of full sun such as open prairies and pine flatwoods. Although asymbiotic
germination in complete darkness was generally greater than germination in a 16/8 h photoperiod (Fig. 2), seedling development was enhanced
in a 16/8 h photoperiod (Fig. 2). No protocorms developed to an advance leaf-bearing stage under complete darkness, but over 20% of the
protocorms on P723 culture medium developed to advanced leaf-bearing stages in the 16/8 h photoperiod (Kauth 2005) (Fig. 3). Similar results
were obtained with asymbiotic germination of Bletia purpurea, a terrestrial orchid that grows in prairies and under open canopies in south Florida
(Dutra et al. unpublished data). Germination and subsequent development under long day conditions may be an adaptation to shallow seed
burial or germination above the substrate.
Several researchers reported that germination of orchids increases with brief periods of illumination. Rasmussen et al. (1990a) reported
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
75% germination of Dactylorhiza majalis when seeds were illuminated after imbibition for 10 days prior to dark incubation. This was a significant
increase from 45% germination under continual darkness. Zettler and McInnis (1994) reported similar results with symbiotic germination of
Platanthera integrilabia. Germination increased from 20% under complete darkness to 44% when seeds were exposed to 7 days of a 16/8 h
photoperiod prior to dark incubation. While the exact function of light pretreatment is not understood, mycorrhizal fungi may benefit from brief
periods of illumination (Zettler and McInnis 1994).
While photoperiod has been studied extensively in orchid seed germination, light quality and quantity has been generally neglected. Fukai et
al. (1997) examined the role of light quality on asymbiotic seed germination of the hybrid Calanthe Satsuma. After 4 months germination
percentage was highest in complete darkness (57.7%) compared to 40.2% and 1.3% germination under red and blue light, respectively.
Germination was also low (12.4%) under a combination of red and blue light as well as fluorescent lights (13.2%). Blue light, although inhibitory
to germination, promoted a high level of protocorm development (Fukai et al. 1997). Blue light has been shown to be important in
photomorphogenesis as well as chlorophyll accumulation in non-orchid species (Kamiya et al. 1981). Likewise, red light proved beneficial for
asymbiotic seed germination of Goodyera pubescens, and blue light and far red inhibitory (McKinley and Camper 1997). Approximately 33%
germination was seen under red light and fluorescent light, while germination under blue light, UV light, and complete darkness was about 20%.
Rasmussen and Rasmussen (1991) studied the effects of light quality and quantity on symbiotic germination of D. majalis. Under a low
white light intensity of 13 W m-2 (ca. 60 µmol m-2 s
-1), germination decreased from 20% in complete darkness to less than 5% (8/16 h
Fig. 3 Comparative effects of media and light on protocorm and seedling development of Calopogon tuberosus var. tuberosus after 8 weeks culture. (A) Seeds
cultured on KC; 8-wk 16-h photoperiod. (B) Seeds cultured on KC; 8-wks continual darkness. (C) Seeds cultured on MM; 8-wk 16-h photoperiod. (D) Seeds cultured on
MM; 8-wks continual darkness. (E) Seeds cultured on P723; 8-wk 16-h photoperiod. (F) Seeds cultured on P723; 8-wks continual darkness. KC-Knudson C Medium; MM-
Malmgren Modified Terrestrial Orchid Medium; P723-PhytoTechnolgy Orchid Seed Sowing Medium. Scale bars = 5 mm. (From Kauth et al. 2006; with kind permission of
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
photoperiod) and 0% (16/8 h photoperiod). Green or red light illumination before white light decreased germination to less than 10%. However,
red light followed by dark incubation increased germination to 17%.
Red light, which is physiologically active, promotes germination; however, canopies absorb red light. Red light stimulation may be an
adaptation for D. majalis growing in open areas (Rasmussen and Rasmussen 1991). The role of phytochrome and red/far-red light has not been
fully investigated in orchid seeds. Researchers experimenting with non-orchid seeds reported that red light promoted germination while seeds
under far-red light did not germinate (Leon and Owen 2003; Kettenring et al. 2006). Experiments with non-orchid seeds may be useful as models
for future orchid seed research regarding phytochrome and light quality. Although only a few published articles exist that examine light quality on
orchid seed germination, more research is required on more species in order to find a definitive function of phytochrome and light quality.
In practice, researchers have largely ignored the importance of temperature during orchid seed germination and seedling development.
Temperatures are often selected with no justification or reference to temperatures in a species’ natural range. Photoperiod is often considered
more important than temperature in orchid seed germination, although research into non-orchid seed germination indicates that temperature can
be more important in controlling germination (Leon and Owen 2003; Walck and Hidayati 2005). For many plant species, temperature is a major
factor responsible for the onset and breaking of physiological seed dormancy (Baskin and Baskin 2004a). Baskin et al. (2006) recommended
alternating temperature regimes for studying germination ecology of all seeds as constant temperatures are not common in nature. However,
orchid seeds are often germinated in vitro at constant temperatures. The lack of understanding on orchid seed germination and temperature may
simply be due to many studies focusing on refining methods of processing seeds, as well as understanding the nutrient requirements of
symbiotic and asymbiotic germination.
Several valuable studies regarding orchid seed germination and temperature do exist. As with many other species, orchid seeds germinate
within a range of temperatures, but maximum germination is achieved only in a narrow range. Dactylorhiza majalis seeds germinate between 10
and 30°C, but the optimum temperature range appears to be between 23 and 24.5°C (Rasmussen et al. 1990b). Germination percentages
decreased below 15°C and above 27°C (Rasmussen et al. 1990b; Rasmussen and Rasmussen 1991). The development of D. majalis seedlings
was optimum at 2-3°C below the optimal germination temperatures, and rhizoid formation was impeded above 29°C (Rasmussen et al. 1990b).
Lower germination under symbiotic conditions at superoptimal temperatures might be due to the lack of mycorrhizal infection. Since rhizoids are
the primary site of mycorrhizal infection, the lack of rhizoids may cause reduced mycorrhizal infections (Rasmussen et al. 1990b). Since
seasonal temperatures fluctuate yearly, tolerance to a wide range of temperatures may guarantee that seeds will germinate over a period of time
and not all at the same time (Rasmussen 1995).
The small size of orchid seeds and their apparent inability to germinate without exogenous nutrients makes them difficult to handle without
specialized techniques. This, in turn, makes it difficult to adopt standard physiological and ecological germination techniques. However, in the
case of many native Florida orchids, current studies are underway that consider the importance of seasonality, photoperiod, and temperature
regime on orchid seed physiology (P. Kauth, unpublished data; S. Stewart, unpublished data). These studies will provide valuable information
and contribute to the overall knowledge regarding the role of temperature in regulating orchid seed germination.
The use of PGRs in asymbiotic orchid seed germination has not been clarified. Cytokinins, such as benzylaminopurine (BA), zeatin (Z),
thidiazuron (TDZ), and kinetin (K), often promote orchid seed germination. Auxins, such as α-naphthalene acetic acid (NAA), and ethephon, an
ethylene precursor, are also commonly used to promote asymbiotic germination. Gibberellic acids (GA) also promote seed germination in many
species, but the use of GA in orchid seed germination has not been very successful (Arditti 1967).
Exogenous cytokinin treatments increase asymbiotic germination of many orchid species. de Pauw et al. (1995), Miyoshi and Mii (1995,
1998), and Stewart and Kane (2006a) all reported increased levels of germination of several terrestrial orchids. de Pauw et al. (1995) reported
increased germination of Cypripedium candidum in the presence of low concentrations of BA and 2-iP, while higher concentrations did not
increase germination. A low concentration (1 µM) of naturally occurring cytokinins (zeatin and kinetin) supported a higher germination
percentage of Habenaria macroceratitis than higher concentrations (3 and 10 µM) of zeatin, kinetin, 2-iP, and BA (Stewart and Kane 2006a; Fig
4). Miyoshi and Mii (1998) also reported increased levels of germination for Cypripedium macranthos in the presence of 1 µM kinetin.
The exact role of cytokinins in orchid seed germination is not well understood. Cytokinins in general promote cell division, as well as RNA
and protein synthesis (Bewley and Black 1994). Certain mycorrhizal fungi are known to produce cytokinins (Crafts and Miller 1974). Exogenous
cytokinins supplied in vitro may substitute for naturally occurring compounds released during mycorrhizal infection. Only two species of fungi
screened produced cytokinins in appreciable amounts for detection (Crafts and Miller 1974). Other mycorrhizal fungi may produce cytokinins in
amounts not detected by tests used by Crafts and Miller (1974). These low levels of cytokinins may actually better support orchid seed
germination. Low cytokinin levels promoted germination further than high cytokinin levels as reported by de Pauw et al. (1995), Miyoshi and Mii
(1995, 1998), and Stewart and Kane (2006a). Whether all mycorrhizal fungi produce cytokinins, or what type and concentration of cytokinins are
optimal for asymbiotic seed germination is still not certain.
Cytokinins may also aid in lipid mobilization within orchid embryos (de Pauw et al. 1995). Dimalla and van Staden (1977) found that storage
lipids in pecan nuts (seeds with high levels of lipids) were mobilized when treated with exogenous cytokinins. A similar process may promote
orchid seed germination by utilizing lipids more efficiently in the presence of exogenous cytokinins. Using research with non-orchid seeds may
help to elucidate the function cytokinins have in orchid seed germination.
Auxins stimulate ethylene evolution especially under stress conditions, which in turn stimulates seed germination in many plant species
(Liberman 1979; Taiz and Zeiger 1998). Although not investigated in orchid seeds, auxins may lead to low levels of ethylene evolution. Miyoshi
and Mii (1995) did not find significant increases in germination of Calanthe discolor in the presence of ethephon, but protocorm development
advanced quickly in the presence of high levels of ethephon and auxins. Ernst et al. (1992) also reported no difference in germination of Cattleya
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
aurantica in the presence of ethephon, but low levels
of ethephon promoted seedling development. Ethylene,
released under stress conditions, might be responsible
for breaking dormancy in some seeds such as sun-
flower and peanut (Kucera et al. 2005).
Miyoshi and Mii (1995) reported similar germina-
tion percentages of Calanthe discolor with various con-
centrations of BA, NAA, and ethephon, but protocorm
development was more advanced when cultured in the
presence of high concentrations of NAA and ethephon.
Pedroza-Manrique et al. (2005) reported decreased
germination of Comparettia falcata in the presence of
auxins. Auxins, in the form of IAA, are not available
until after germination in many seeds, and then are
transported to the coleoptile tip of the seedling (Bewley
and Black 1994). In monocots, such as grasses, IAA is
found within the endosperm (Bewley and Black 1994),
but since orchid seeds do not contain endosperm the
location and function of auxins is still uncertain in
orchid seed germination. However, auxins do appear
to positively influence orchid seedling growth, and
comparable studies with non-orchid seeds and auxins
may serve as models for orchid seed research.
Although GA often promotes seed germination in
many plants, mixed results have been found with
orchids. For example, GA3 did not promote seed ger-
mination in Calanthe discolor (Miyoshi and Mii 1995),
but did promote seedling development of Phalaenopsis
(Cardenas and Wang 1998). When Phalaenopsis seedlings were cultured in the presence GA3, fresh weight (613 mg) and root length (21.7 mm)
were significantly greater than the fresh weight (300 mg) and root length (14.7) of the control seedlings (Cardenas and Wang 1998). The
concentrations of GA3 may have been too high to promote seed germination, but optimal for enhancing seedling development.
The role of PGRs in asymbiotic orchid germination is uncertain, and responses to growth regulators are often species specific. A major
obstacle to understanding the role exogenous and endogenous PGRs have in promoting/inhibiting germination of orchid seeds may be the small
size of the seeds and the possible low levels of PGRs in the embryo. Investigating the concentrations of endogenous PGRs in orchid seeds, as
well as when PGRs are active in germination would greatly enhance the current knowledge of how PGRs affect germination of orchid seeds.
Many cold-hardy terrestrial orchids exhibit low seed germination, which is often attributed to low viability or dormancy. Dormancy type and
dormancy breaking mechanisms have not been studied in depth in the Orchidaceae. Morphological, physiological, and morphophysiological
dormancy have all been identified in orchid seeds (Baskin and Baskin 2001). Morphological dormancy is characterized by a delay in germination
due to an undifferentiated embryo in orchid seeds (Baskin and Baskin 2001). However, morphological dormancy is difficult to characterize in
orchids since testa rupture and germination may occur when the embryo is still relatively undifferentiated. Since extensive embryo development
prior to testa rupture may not be necessary, the tenant of morphological dormancy as it is currently accepted may not directly relate to orchids. In
physiological dormancy, the embryo does not have sufficient growth potential to break through the testa, but imbibition occurs (Baskin and
Baskin 2001). Recent studies reported that physical dormancy may delay germination of various taxa in the Orchidaceae, especially cold-hardy
terrestrials (Lee et al. 2005, 2006; Yamazaki and Miyoshi 2006). Physical dormancy is similar to physiological dormancy, but physically dormant
seeds are unable to imbibe water due to the hydrophobic nature of the testa (Baskin and Baskin 2004b). Although dormancies do contribute to
low germination percentages in orchid seeds, seed age and seed viability should be investigated before low germination is attributed to
8.1. Seed viability
Attempts have been made to link low germination and low viability through tetrazolium (TZ) testing. In a TZ test, viable and respiring embryos are
stained red and nonviable embryos remain uncolored (Lakon 1949). Mixed results were obtained with TZ tests of Western European Orchids
(van Waes and Debergh 1986a). Of 16 species examined, only four were successfully stained using classic TZ procedures. These variable
results were attributed to the inconsistent permeability of the different species’ testas. Impermeable testas are common in terrestrial orchids,
while epiphytic orchids often have dry cracks in the testa (van Waes and Debergh 1986a). The testas of several Vanda hybrids degrade after two
minutes in sodium hypochlorite (T. Johnson, pers. obs.), while seed of several Cypripedium species can withstand several hours in a
hypochlorite solution (Steele 1996). Suberin, a waxy substance, is commonly found on testas of orchid seeds, which may contribute to
impermeability of the testas. After testing for viability and determining seeds are viable, dormancy may be a contributing factor to low seed
Fig. 4 Effect of cytokinin type (BA, Zea, Kin, 2-iP) and concentration (0, 1, 3, 10 µM) on
percent seed germination of Habenaria macroceratitis after 14 weeks culture on Malmgren
Modified Terrestrial Orchid Medium. BA, benzyladenine; Zea, zeatin; Kin, kinetin; 2-iP, 6-(γ,γ-
dimethylallylamino) purine. (From Stewart and Kane 2006a; with kind permission of Springer).
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
8.2. Seed age
Immature seeds of many orchid species have been shown to germinate more readily than mature seeds (Arditti et al. 1981; Arditti 1982; Linden
1992; de Pauw and Remphrey 1993). Several factors may contribute to the increased germinability of immature seeds. Immature seeds may be
more water permeable than mature seeds (van Waes and Debergh 1986b). Mature seeds may have chemical inhibitors, such as ABA, or lack
certain germination promoting hormones (van Staden et al. 1972; van der Kinderen 1987), or have an impermeable testa (Yamazaki and Miyoshi
The low germinability in mature seeds of several species has been linked to the development of the testa. St-Arnaud et al. (1992) reported
higher germination in seeds of C. acaule collected 60 days after pollination (DAP) than seeds collected 30 or 90 DAP. de Pauw and Remphrey
(1993) found that germination of three Cypripedium species improved when seeds were collected 8 weeks after pollination (WAP), and declined
rapidly thereafter. Germination of Dendrobium tosaense seeds improved 8 and 9 WAP compared to 10-14 WAP (Lo et al. 2004). Yamazaki and
Miyoshi (2006) reported higher germination with seeds collected 70 DAP in Cephalanthera falcata, and decreased germination thereafter. The
decreased germination with seeds collected 80 DAP, and thereafter, was attributed to lignification and cutinization of the integument that created
an impermeable layer. Seeds harvested at least 140 DAP did not stain in a TZ test unless the integument was degraded through chemical
scarification. Yamazaki and Miyoshi (2006) found that the TZ solution did not penetrate the integument 100 DAP, and thereafter. This indicates
that after 100 DAP the integument provides a significant barrier to water uptake, and contributed to delayed germination. Rasmussen and
Whigham (1993) found that seeds of several terrestrial orchids can remain in the soil for months or years. The impermeable nature of the testa
may contribute to a persistent seed bank. This is an advantage to species whose seeds are dispersed at times for unfavorable germination, and
are able to survive until conditions are met for germination (Rasmussen 1995).
Yeung et al. (1996), Lee et al. (2005), and Lee et al. (2006) found that cuticular substances around the inner integument and embryo caused
a hydrophobic barrier to water and nutrient uptake in Cymbidium sinense, Cypripedium formosanum, and Paphiopedilum delenatii seeds,
respectively. Lee et al. (2005) found that 135 DAP the inner integument shrunk and formed a tight layer around the embryo, resulting in poor
germination. At 150 DAP the cuticular substances started to form a complete layer around the embryo proper, and at full maturity (210 DAP) the
cuticular substances enveloped the entire embryo (Lee et al. 2006). At 105 DAP the outer layer of the testa began to shrink and compress the
embryo, and at full maturity the testa was completely dehydrated and formed a tight barrier around the embryo (Lee et al. 2006). Although
cuticular substances were located in the testa, the suspensor region was free of these substances, allowing nutrients and water to move into the
embryo (Lee et al. 2006). The impermeable nature of the testa indicates the presence of physical dormancy. Since the suspensor region may be
a channel for imbibition, the role of physical dormancy, which appears to develop at a specific time, is still not well-understood. To fully examine
the role of physical dormancy, imbibition rates of individual seeds must be examined. However, weighing individual orchid seeds is a difficult task
given the equipment required to accomplish this, such as a highly sensitive electrobalance.
8.3. Cold-stratification
Several treatments are effective at breaking dormancy in mature orchid seeds including cold-stratification, ultrasonic treatments, and chemical
treatments. The use of cold-stratification for dormancy breaking in orchid seeds is often used for difficult-to-germinate genera such as
Cypripedium, Epipactis, and Dactylorhiza (Rasmussen 1995). However, there is limited information on the exact mechanism by which cold-
stratification promotes orchid seed germination. Cold temperatures may decrease enzymatic reactions, slow metabolic processes, or change
enzyme production and concentration (Bewley and Black 1994). Metabolic processes that inhibit germination may be slowed during stratification
allowing germination to proceed (Bewley and Black 1994).
The majority of cold-stratification research on orchid seeds has been conducted on Cypripedium species. However, variable results have
been reported not only between species, but also within the same species. Ballard (1990) reported a maximum germination in Cypripedium
calceolus of 16% after 4 months of cold-stratification at 5°C, while Coke (1990) reported 50% germination after 5 months of cold-stratification. In
a parallel study, germination of C. calceolus increased to over 90% after cold-stratification at 5°C for 8 weeks (Chu and Mudge 1994). In a
different study pretreatment of C. calceolus seeds at 6°C for 8 weeks reduced germination to 1.6% (van Waes and Debergh 1986b). Different
capsule ripening conditions and seed age may have caused the different results. van Waes and Debergh (1986b) used fully mature seeds
collected from dehisced capsules, while Chu and Mudge (1994) used non-dehisced mature seeds. Dehisced seeds may need a longer period of
cold-stratification than van Waes and Debergh (1986b) provided. Since Chu and Mudge (1994) cultured seeds in complete darkness while van
Waes and Debergh cultured seeds under a 14/10 h photoperiod (1986b), differences in germination may be attributed to other culture conditions.
The length of cold-stratification is also an important factor to consider, and may be species specific. Rasmussen (1992), Tomita and Tomita
(1997), and Miyoshi and Mii (1998) reported higher germination percentages when seeds of Cypripedium macranthos, C. candidum, and
Epipactis palustris, respectively, were cold-stratified for 8 to 12 weeks. Zettler et al. (2001) found that germination percentage of Platanthera
leucophaea increased after two cold-stratifications for 11 months as well as 107 days at 6°C following 95 days at 23°C. Sharma et al. (2003)
reported a higher germination percentage of Platanthera praeclara after 6 months of cold-stratification compared to 0 and 4 months. Shimura
and Koda (2005) reported the importance of fungal inoculation corresponding to cold-stratification on symbiotic germination of C. macranthos. A
higher germination percentage was reported when seed cultures were inoculated with fungi after a 12 week cold-stratification compared to
inoculation before or several weeks after the cold-stratification. This might suggest that fungal infection in nature takes place after winter and
prior to germination in early spring (Shimura and Koda 2005).
Cytokinins may also contribute to breaking dormancy in many seed types, and research in this area may serve to elucidate their role in
orchid seed germination. During cold stratification, endogenous cytokinin levels in the embryo for many non-orchid species increase (Bewley and
Black 1994), thus possibly substituting for cold stratification (Miyoshi and Mii 1998). In Acer saccharum seeds, kinetin levels increased
significantly after incubation for 20 days at 5°C, but kinetin was not found in seeds incubated at 20°C (van Staden et al. 1972). Cytokinins also
increase during seed development and seed tissue growth but decline with seed maturation (Bewley and Black 1994). Little to no kinetin was
found in Acer saccharum seeds that were incubated for 20 days or already germinated (van Staden et al. 1972). The role of cytokinins as well as
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
cytokinin types in orchid seed germination should be tested using both mature and immature seed.
Cold-stratification in orchid seeds has several ecological functions and effects. If seed dispersal occurs in fall, seed germination may be
delayed until the next growing season when conditions are more favorable for growth and development. A low temperature requirement may
prevent seeds from germinating immediately after dispersal (Rasmussen 1995). Calopogon tuberosus seeds from northern populations
germinate quickly and allocate more biomass to storage organs. This mechanism may allow seeds and seedlings to survive winter months
successfully (P. Kauth, unpublished data). The effects of chilling and thawing may cause degradation of the testa, which could lead to leaching of
germination inhibitors, imbibition, and fungal infection (Rasmussen 1995). Chilling also promotes the growth of rhizoids, which are important for
the uptake of water and nutrients as well as establishing the mycorrhizal fungal relationship (Rasmussen 1992).
8.4. Seed coat treatments and hormonal inhibitors
Treatments, such as hypochlorite soaks, can be used to weaken the testa, improve permeability, and promote germination. These treatments are
often used to bypass physiological or physical dormancy. Miyoshi and Mii (1998) reported increased germination after pretreating seeds of
Cypripedium macranthos with 0.5% sodium hypochlorite or 3.2% calcium hypochlorite. However, higher concentrations of hypochlorite and long
periods of presoaking may lead to decreased germination by damaging embryos. Care must be taken to find the optimal surface disinfecting
solution and appropriate time to optimize germination.
One technique not widely utilized for degrading the testa is sonication. Calanthe discolor seed germination increased under sonication
(Miyoshi and Mii 1988). Sonication removed testas after 4 minutes, and all embryos were free of the testa after 12 minutes. However, embryos
were damaged by 8 minutes of sonication. Lauzer et al. (1994) also used sonication to improve germination of Cypripedium acaule. At 3.5
minutes approximately 30% of the embryos lost their testas compared to about 70% of the embryos in the 7 minute treatment. However, the 7
minute treatment decreased germination when compared to the 3.5 minute treatment. As reported by Miyoshi and Mii (1988), prolonged
sonication damaged the embryos, perhaps causing decreased germination.
Abscisic acid (ABA) has been studied in many species; however, the role of ABA in orchid seed germination has not been extensively
studied. ABA is known to prevent germination and induce seed dormancy in many plant species (Bewley and Black 1994). ABA is synthesized
both in the embryos and testas of many non-orchid species, and serves to prevent germination when seeds do not have sufficient nutrient
reserves (Kermode 2005). It also accumulates as seeds mature, and levels peak at mid-maturation of seeds (Kermode 2005). ABA was found in
two species of terrestrial European orchids, but was not assumed to be the sole contributor to dormancy (Van der Kinderen 1987). Whether ABA
affects seed germination depends on the location and the sensitivity of the cells to ABA (van Der Kinderen 1987). Free ABA levels were higher in
mature seeds (7.2 µg/g fresh weight) of Dactylorhiza maculata than in immature seeds (0.514 2 µg/g fresh weight). This study showed that ABA
accumulates in maturing embryos, but the exact point of peak accumulation was not stated.
In a very important study, Lee et al. (2007) studied the role of ABA in seed germination of Calanthe tricarinata. ABA levels remained low from
60-90 DAP at 2.16-2.26 fresh weight. However, as seed age increased the ABA levels also increased. At full seed maturity of 210 DAP,
ABA levels peaked at 11.6 fresh weight. They also reported that pretreatment of mature seeds with ultrasound, 1% NaOCl, or 1 N NaOH
for 15-60 minutes improved germination and decreased ABA levels. After 15 minutes of pretreatment, ABA levels were as follows: 11.1, 8.7, and
7.4 of fresh weight for ultrasound, 1% NaOCl, and NaOH, respectively. After 60 minutes of pretreatment ABA levels decreased to 6.2, 2.6,
and 1.8 of fresh weight for ultrasound, 1% NaOCl, and NaOH, respectively.
Seed pretreatments may improve orchid seed germination by changing the physical characteristics of the testa (Lee et al. 2005). Sonication
and chemical treatments cause ruptures in the testa resulting in increased water and nutrient uptake by the embryo (Miyoshi and Mii 1988).
Removing the embryo from the testa removes possible germination inhibitors in the testa; however, identification of possible chemical inhibitors
in the testa has not been fully investigated. Chilling or soaking might lead to leaching of chemical inhibitors such as ABA that develop during
seed maturation (Linden 1992). In non-orchid species, chilling has been shown to decrease ABA (Feurtado et al. 2004), but more research is
required with orchids.
Although many common factors, such as photoperiod and temperature, influence both asymbiotic and symbiotic germination, the two methods
are quite different. Symbiotic germination techniques were developed prior to asymbiotic germination; however, asymbiotic germination methods
are more widely used at present. Since fungi are utilized in symbiotic germination, additional training beyond asymbiotic germination techniques
is required (Zettler 1996). For this reason, symbiotic germination is often unjustly considered more difficult or more complicated than asymbiotic
germination (Zettler 1996). The popularity of asymbiotic germination has, until recently, caused a lack of orchid-fungal symbiosis research
(Zettler 1997a). To date, most symbiotic germination research has emphasized temperate terrestrial orchids that are often difficult to germinate in
asymbiotic culture (Zettler 1996).
9.1. Symbiotic techniques
The most important step in symbiotic germination is the isolation and identification of root inhabiting mycobionts. The basic procedure for
isolating mycobionts is to harvest roots from orchid plants and isolate the fungi under in vitro conditions. Orchid roots are harvested, rinsed in
cold tap water, and surface sterilized (Zettler 1997b). Roots can be either macerated and inoculated onto an appropriate culture medium, or
individual root-inhabiting fungal structures, called pelotons, can be isolated and placed onto a culture medium (Zettler 1997b; Stewart and Kane
2006b). To promote fungal growth, fungi are inoculated onto a medium rich in nutrients [Potato Dextrose Agar (PDA; BD Company, Sparks, MA)
or Corn Meal Agar (CMA; Sigma-Aldrich, St. Louis, MO); Tab le 3 ] that can be supplemented with antibiotics to inhibit bacterial growth (Fig. 5).
After 2-5 days, the tips of developing fungal cultures are excised and subcultured (Stewart and Kane 2006b). After several more days, fungi are
identified and stored at 10°C on oat meal agar (Dixon 1987; Table 3 ).
Although the symbiotic technique of germinating orchid seeds is easy to implement in theory, there are several drawbacks to this method.
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
Fungal succession may be responsible for germination and subsequent
development. Younger plants and seedlings may better support fungi
responsible for germination, while fungi isolated from mature plants may
better support development (Zettler 2001; Rasmussen 2002; Sharma et al.
2003). In vitro seed germination of Platanthera praeclara increased when
seeds were co-cultured with a fungus isolated from seedlings and
protocorms compared to mycobionts isolated from mature plants (Sharma et
al. 2003). In addition, fungal colonization in orchid roots may be variable
throughout the year, as well as location of the fungal infection in the orchid
root system (Zettler 2001). Also individual pelotons may host several fungal species, many of which may not be responsible for germination
(Zettler et al. 2003).
In order to increase the chances of isolating mycobionts that promote germination, nylon mesh bags containing seeds are often used for in
situ germination (Rasmussen and Whigham 1993). For this technique, nylon mesh packets (4 x 6 cm; 35 μM pore size) are inoculated with
seeds. The pore size must be small enough to retain the seeds, but large enough to allow fungal hyphae penetration. This method is sometimes
termed fungal baiting, since the seed packets are used to attract fungi that promote germination (Brundrett et al. 2003). In order to isolate
mycobionts from the packets, the protocorms are removed from the packets, surface sterilized, and macerated (Zettler et al. 2005b). Nutrient
medium is then poured over the macerated protocorms to allow mycobiont growth (Zettler et al. 2005b). This technique may ensure the isolation
of mycobionts that promote germination.
9.2. Fungal specificity
Although symbiotic germination may result in higher germination percentages than asymbiotic germination (Rasmussen et al. 1990b; Zettler and
McInnis 1994), controversy exists whether orchid seeds require specific fungi to fully promote germination and subsequent development
(Rasmussen 2002). In vitro fungal specificity appears to be highly specific for some species. Zettler et al. (1999) reported 100% germination of
Encyclia tampensis seeds when using a fungal isolate from Epidendrum conopseum, but few seedlings developed to a leaf-bearing stage. Otero
et al. (2004) reported high germination in two epiphytic orchids when using fungal isolates from each orchid. Fungi isolated from both Tolumnia
variegata and Ionopsis utricularioides supported seed germination from both species. However, seed germination and subsequent development
of I. utricularioides increased when co-cultured with its own mycobionts, but germination was still over 60% when co-cultured with T. variegata
isolates (Otero et al. 2004). Tolumnia variegata was found to be a generalist while I. utricularioides was more specific in its mycobiont preference.
Ionopsis utricularioides has a more restricted geographic range than T. variegata, therefore it may have a more specific mycobiont requirement
than T. variegata (Otero et al. 2004).
Terrestrial orchids appear to have a higher degree of mycobiont specificity at the generic and species levels. Although Platanthera
integrilabia seeds did germinate with mycobionts from other Platanthera species, only isolates from P. integrilabia supported advanced seedling
Fig. 5 Typical orchid mycobionts in pure culture growing on PDA after 20 d incubation. (A) Unidentified Basidiomycotina species isolated from Eulophia alta, a
terrestrial orchid in south Florida. (B) Epulorhiza repens isolated from Spiranthes brevilabris, a terrestrial orchid in central Florida. (C) Epulorhiza repens isolated from
Habenaria macroceratitis, a terrestrial orchid in central Florida. (D) Unidentified Ceratorhiza species isolated from Spiranthes floridana, a terrestrial orchid in northern
Florida. Scale bars = 2.25 cm. (Pictures by S. Stewart).
Table 3 Formulations of symbiotic germination media per 1 liter water:
Corn Meal Agar (CMA); Oat Meal Agar (OMA) (Dixon 1987); Potato
Dextrose Agar (PDA).
Component CMA OMA 1/5th PDA
Pulverized oats 3.0 g
Corn meal 50 g
PDA powder 6.8 g
Yeast extract 100 mg
Bacto-agar 15.0 g 7.0 g 6.0 g
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
development (Zettler and McInnis 1992). Zettler and Hofer (1998) found that mycobionts from four Platanthera species supported germination of
P. clavellata. Since Platanthera species are often found growing in close proximity, these species might utilize similar mycobionts to support
germination, but not subsequent development (Zettler and Hofer 1998). Similarly, isolates from both Spiranthes brevilabris and S. floridana
supported germination of S. brevilabris seeds; however, only mycobionts from S. brevilabris supported subsequent development (Stewart and
Kane 2007). Spiranthes brevilabris is a rare Florida terrestrial orchid, and its rarity may be attributed to the high mycobiont specificity of the
species (Stewart and Kane 2007).
As previously mentioned, fungal succession may be more prevalent than formerly believed. This fungal succession from seed to seedling to
mature plant remains unclear. However, recent findings may help to clarify this mystery. Two antifungal compounds were isolated during the
symbiotic germination of Cypripedium macranthos var. rebunense (Shimura et al. 2007). The first compound, lusianthrin, was isolated when
protocorms were inoculated with a mycorrhizal fungus. Chrysin, the other antifungal compound, was only isolated in non-infected protocorms.
A large increase in pelotons occurred simultaneously with an increased level of lusianthrin, and after 4 months lusianthrin levels were twice the
ED100, but hyphae and pelotons were still found in cytoplasm cells. Lusianthrin was determined to maintain the balance between the symbiotic
relationship involved in seed germination. Because chrysin was not isolated in protocorms, this antifungal compound may only be produced by
adult plants. Shimura et al. (2007) determined that orchids utilize multiple antifungal compounds at certain stages of development.
Symbiotic seedlings cultured with fungi from other species or locations may not be suitable for reintroduction, and raises ecological
concerns. Introducing a non-native mycobiont into a new site may have consequences similar to introducing plants into non-native habitats
(Zettler et al. 2003, 2005a; Stewart and Kane 2007). Non-native fungi may not have the capacity to survive or support the growth of a host plant
in a foreign habitat, thus causing the reintroduced plants to die. Different strains within a fungal species may cause harm and permanent damage
to isolated ecosystems or other rare and endangered plants (Zettler et al. 2005a). Likewise many mycorrhizal fungi are Rhizoctonia-like fungi,
which can be parasitic under some conditions. In addition, introducing non-native fungi to a reintroduction site may have detrimental effects on
the habitat by releasing a potentially pathogenic fungus or interfering with the balance of native biota.
9.3. Mycobiont contributions to orchid seeds
Although orchids do require a mycorrhizal association for in situ germination and subsequent development, the role of the fungus is still not well-
understood. Mycobionts provide orchid embryos with water, nitrogen, carbohydrates, vitamins, and undefined organic compounds (Yoder et al.
2000; Rasmussen 2002). To gauge the success of symbiotic germination, direct comparisons between asymbiotic and symbiotic germination
should be investigated. However, direct comparisons between the techniques are questionable since the culture media are very different
(Rasmussen et al. 1990b). Several direct comparisons between symbiotic and asymbiotic germination of terrestrial orchids do exist. Although
different species were studied, evidence suggests an advantage for symbiotic seed germination and seedling development (Rasmussen et al.
1990b; Rasmussen 1992; Oddie et al. 1994; Zettler and McInnis 1994; Takahashi et al. 2000; Johnson et al. 2007). The components of
asymbiotic media, although suitable for germination, may not substitute for the mycobiont or the nutrients made available to the embryo by the
mycobiont upon infection (Rasmussen 1992).
Supplying water to germinating orchid seeds may be an overlooked yet important contribution of the mycobiont. Seeds of Platanthera
integrilabia, a terrestrial orchid, and Epidendrum conopseum, an epiphytic orchid, exhibited increased water content when cultured symbiotically
(Yoder et al. 2000). Water content, as well as the ability to retain water, was greater in P. integrilabia seeds than E. conopseum seeds. Since the
seeds of E. conopseum were smaller in size than those of P. integrilabia, a large surface to volume ratio existed, which was responsible for the
higher water loss. This suggests that the testa of E. conopseum was not as water impermeable as that of P. integrilabia, which may be the
reason epiphytic orchids germinate more readily in vitro. Terrestrial orchids may more commonly have a hydrophobic testa in order to avoid
imbibition under unfavorable germination conditions (Rasmussen and Rasmussen 1991).
Nitrogen also is an important nutrient in the mycorrhizal-orchid relationship. A limited concentration of nitrogen and high carbohydrate supply
promoted mycobiont infection and increased germination of Orchis morio seeds (Beyrle et al. 1995). A high concentration of nitrogen and low
carbohydrate supply did not result in mycobiont infection, but rather led to parasitism by the fungus on the orchid seeds. High nitrogen content in
the culture medium caused a cell wall thickening and accumulation of phenolic compounds. This thickening of the cell wall, in turn, may be
difficult for a potential mycobiont to penetrate and establish an association with the orchid seed (Beyrle et al. 1995). The requirement of low
nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus for adult plants of Dactylorhiza majalis (Dijk and Olff, 1994) may be due to the competitive nature of
mycorrhizae on low nutrient soils (Rasmussen 1992).
One purpose of orchid seed germination is to provide plants for species-level conservation and reintroductions. However, populations of one
species may inhabit strikingly different habitats across a geographic range. For example, Calopogon tuberosus inhabits alkaline, mesic prairies
in south Florida and acidic bogs throughout its northern range into Canada. These habitats may alter the genotypic and/or phenotypic
compositions of this orchid producing distinct ecotypes adapted to local environmental conditions (Hufford and Mazer 2003). Introducing
inappropriate ecotypes into a particular habitat could not only lead to the death of transplanted individuals, loss of genetic diversity, and
population degradation. With an increasing interest in orchid-species conservation, care must be taken to use local seed. Although no previous
studies exist that differentiate orchid ecotypes, compare seed germination among ecotypes, or characterize seed germination and development
to habitat differences, this area of research is currently ongoing (P. Kauth, unpublished data).
Several studies do exist that compare seed germination among different seed sources of the same species. Zettler and McInnis (1992)
reported germination differences between seed sources of Platanthera integrilabia. The highest germination percentage and seedling
establishment was observed in seeds from the largest known population of P. integrilabia, while seed collected from smaller populations was
found to have lower germination percentages and seedling establishment (Zettler and McInnis 1992). Inbreeding depression in smaller
populations could lead to differences in germinability (Zettler and McInnis 1992), low viability, or reduced vigor. Zettler and Hofer (1998) reported
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
differences in germination among populations of Platanthera clavellata. Although seed originating from Georgia had lower germination than other
sources, seedling development was superior with Georgia seeds (Zettler and Hofer 1998). Since P. clavellata is an auto-pollinated species, it
may be likely that small differences in seed viability or genetic diversity would occur between populations (Zettler and Hofer 1998). Although
habitat conditions were not incorporated into this study, the size of the populations and apparent isolation may have caused genetic differences
in seed germination. Recently the symbiotic germination between two populations of Epidendrum nocturnum was examined (Zettler et al. 2007).
Across all treatments germination of seeds from Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve in Florida averaged 55.7% while germination was 12.7% on
average from seeds from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge (FPNWR). However, seeds from the FPNWR had a viability of 79.7%
compared to a viability of 72.6% for Fakahatchee seeds. Although seed handling and age may have contributed to these differences (Zettler et al.
2007), the self-pollinating breeding system may have also contributed to the germination and viability differences.
Dijk and Eck (1995b) investigated the role of in vitro seedling mineral nutrition between coastal and inland populations of Dactylorhiza
incarnata in the Netherlands. Major differences in seed germination responses to nitrogen type and population location were noted. Seedlings
from coastal areas grew faster in vitro and were more tolerant of exogenous ammonium and nitrate, while the inland seedlings were more
sensitive to both ammonium and nitrate. However, seedlings from both populations were more sensitive to high concentrations of exogenous
nitrogen. Since the coastal seedlings developed quickly, they were also able to assimilate nitrate more efficiently. Both populations inhabit
calcareous areas where high nutrient levels are found due to the introduction of fertilizers and poor drainage. These soil conditions have led to
decreased D. incarnata plant numbers. Increased nitrogen mineralization inland may have caused increased nitrogen sensitivity of these plants.
Although Dijk and Eck (1995b) were uncertain whether habitat influenced developmental differences, habitat differences seem to have
influenced the ecotype differentiation as shown by the observed differences in seedling development.
Possible ecotypic differentiation among populations in other orchid species has been observed. Preliminary results showed major
differences in asymbiotic germination among populations of Calopogon tuberosus when comparing photoperiods (P. Kauth, unpublished data).
Under short days germination percentages of north central and south Florida seeds were higher than neutral and long days, while no difference
in germination of Michigan seeds was seen among photoperiods. Florida seeds had the highest germination percentage compared to South
Carolina and Michigan seeds. Seedling corm development also differed under in vitro conditions. While south Florida seeds did not form corms
in vitro within 16 weeks, seeds from north-central Florida, South Carolina, and Michigan formed corms readily. Higher biomass allocation to
corms and rapid corm formation was observed in Michigan seedlings compared to all other seed sources. The tendency to form corms quickly
may be caused by a shortened growing season. Seeds from more northern populations may germinate and form corms immediately in order to
survive winter conditions. As in the south Florida seedlings, corm formation in seedlings from extreme southern populations may be slower
because of the longer growing season.
Additionally, germination percentages were different on various culture media (P. Kauth, unpublished data). Culture media with high
concentrations of micronutrients promoted germination and seedling development in Florida and Michigan seeds. Media with high mineral salt
concentrations and low micronutrients promoted seed germination of South Carolina seeds. Differences in germination on different culture media
among C. tuberosus populations may be the result of soil nutrient availability at each site, or the result of ecotypic development caused by
different photoperiod, temperature, seed viability, and genetic diversity (P. Kauth, pers. obs.).
Ex vitro survival of orchid seedlings is often low, and improving the survival of orchid seedlings ex vitro is essential for reintroduction programs
(Zettler et al. 2005b). Terrestrial orchid seedlings often do not survive after the first growing season in the field due to a lack of storage organs
such as tubers and corms, or because of storage organ mortality (Batty et al. 2006a; Scade et al. 2006). To increase seedling survival during ex
vitro transfer, seedling acclimatization may be necessary for some species (Zettler et al. 2005b; Batty et al. 2006a). Since in vitro grown
seedlings often have low or no stomatal activity (due to continually high humidity) and are grown in a high nutrient environment, acclimatization
procedures are used to gradually decrease relative humidity levels, increase photosynthetic capacity, and acclimate seedlings to low nutrient
environments (Batty et al. 2006a). However, research on the photosynthetic rates of in vitro orchid seedlings during acclimatization is rare.
Zettler et al. (2005b) and Batty et al. (2006a) utilized methods to increase seedling survival of terrestrial orchids by transferring symbiotically
grown seedlings to larger culture vessels containing a layer of symbiotic culture medium, sand, and charcoal. These larger culture vessels
provide seedlings and mycobionts with a fresh source of carbohydrates, a substrate to absorb possible growth-inhibitors, and a gas-permeable
environment provided by small pore-sized nylon mesh disks. Decreased humidity, increased moisture loss, and increased gas exchange were
the primary reasons for successful seedling survival (Zettler et al. 2005b; Batty et al. 2006a). Scade et al. (2006) reported successful seedling
survival of several Australian terrestrial orchids as well as the reintroduction of these seedlings into natural habitats using this technique.
However, long term survival depended several ex vitro environmental factors including weed coverage, canopy cover, and site slope (Scade et al.
Another technique to increase survival of field transplanted seedlings is to use dormant organ structures as propagules (Batty et al. 2006b).
Dormant tubers of several Australian orchids survived for longer periods of time than did seedlings after transplantation, since the tubers
contained more nutrient reserves, and were able to survive harsh environmental conditions better than seedlings. After five growing seasons,
80% of Diuris micrantha tubers survived. Other taxa had lower survival compared to D. micrantha; however, the use of dormant tubers for
transplanting generally provided the highest survivorship after five years. Large tubers of D. micrantha survived dormancy and subsequently
flowered after 2 years under natural conditions, while mortality increased with smaller tubers. The larger tubers may have contained greater
nutrient reserves to survive dormancy and initiate growth (Batty et al. 2006b).
Those species that do form storage organs often do not form them readily in vitro. Several studies have shown that dormant structures can
be induced in vitro. Stewart and Kane (2006a) and Tissue et al. (1995) reported increased tuberization and corm formation under short days with
the North American orchids Habenaria macroceratitis and Tipularia discolor, respectively. Debeljak et al. (2002) induced tubers of Pterostylis
sanguinea in vitro when seedlings were cultured with jasmonic acid alone or in combination with sucrose. Unfortunately, not all terrestrial orchids
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Kauth et al. Orchid seed germination
form storage organs. Although these methods do improve seedling survival, more studies are needed to monitor long term seedling survival after
reintroduction. Survival is dependent on mycorrhizal recruitment, soil composition, timing of reintroduction, storage organ size, seedling size, and
environmental conditions.
Many orchid species are now imperiled with habitat degradation and loss, threatening species survival. Although habitat preservation and in situ
conservation are often the desired approach for species conservation, ex situ conservation is essential for long term storage of genetic
germplasm (Pritchard and Seaton 1993). Methods for conserving material ex situ include species cultivation, clonal propagation, and long term
pollen/seed storage with seed storage being the most attractive option (Pritchard and Seaton 1993).
Orchid seeds are classified as orthodox meaning seed longevity can be enhanced by reducing their moisture content from 20% to 5%
(relative humidity of 11%), and by lowering storage temperatures to 0°C (Pritchard et al. 1999). Viability can be retained 5-20 years at
refrigerator temperatures depending on the species being stored (Shoushtari et al. 1994). Pritchard and Seaton (1993) reported high seed
viability after six years at -20°C and -196°C, but other species’ seeds are sensitive to desiccation at -20°C and below. Seed moisture content
above 10.4% can lead to severe viability loss (Pritchard 1984). For example, Eulophia alta seeds with a moisture content of 23% reduced
germination 20% after 2 months storage at 2°C (Pritchard 1984). If storing seed at low temperatures, finding the correct desiccant is important.
Silica gel reduced the seed moisture content of Cattleya aurantiaca to 2.2% after one week; however, calcium chloride maintained the optimum
seed moisture content of 5.6% (Seaton and Hailes 1989).
Pritchard (1984) first reported the successful storage of orchid seeds in liquid nitrogen (LN) at -196°C (=cryopreservation). Since Pritchard
published the first cryopreservation study on orchid seeds others have reported successful cryopreservation of many orchid species. Tropical,
temperate, epiphytic, and terrestrial orchid seeds have all been successfully cryopreserved by directly plunging seeds contained in cryovials into
LN with little to no loss of viability (Nikishina et al. 2001a, 2001b; Popova et al. 2003; Nikishina et al. 2007).
A vitrification method has also been used to pretreat seeds before placing them into LN. In this process, a large portion of the freezable
water is dehydrated at a non-freezing temperature (Hirano et al. 2005b). This ensures that cell damaging ice crystals do not form upon freezing
(Vendrame et al. 2007). Often called osmoprotection, tissues are treated with a 2 M glycerol and 0.4 M sucrose cryoprotectant solution usually at
room temperature. Vitrification eliminates the need for slow /careful freezing, and also allows seeds to be safely placed into LN (Thammasiri
2000). The vitrification method often leads to increased germination, decreased seedling damage, and increased seedling survival (Ishikawa et
al. 1997; Thammasiri 2000; Hirano et al. 2005a, 2005b). Zygotic embryos and seeds of Bletilla striata have been cryopreserved through
vitrification (Ishikawa et al. 1997; Hirano et al. 2005a). Immature seeds of Ponerorchis graminifolia var. suzukiana were also cryopreserved
through vitrification (Hirano et al. 2005b). Vendrame et al. (2007) reported higher germination of several Dendrobium hybrids when seeds were
exposed to vitrification at 0°C compared to 27°C before cryopreservation. Care must be taken to find the optimum vitrification temperature and
exposure times to increase survivorship and germination (Vendrame et al. 2007). In all studies, embryo and seedling morphology were normal
with no morphological abnormalities.
As habitat is lost or degraded, not only are orchids imperiled but also their mycobionts. For conservation purposes, preserving the fungi that
form this symbiosis with orchids is important. Techniques for storing orchid seeds and their mycobionts simultaneously have been explored.
Wood et al. (2000) stored seeds of two European terrestrial orchids along with their mycobionts in sodium alginate beads before placing them in
LN. Encapsulated seeds were pretreated with several sucrose concentrations from 0 to 1 M, but optimum seed germination and fungal hyphae
growth occurred with 0.75 M sucrose. Encapsulated seeds and fungi were stored at 16°C, -20°C, -70°C, or LN for 0, 3, and 30 days. When
stored at -196°C, 100% germination occurred at all time periods (Wood et al. 2000). Batty et al. (2001) reported on the cryopreservation of
several Australian terrestrial orchid seeds and their mycobionts. Along with the seeds, a 3 mm2 fungal agar cube was placed in the cryovial.
Following 12 months in storage at 22°C, 4°C, -18°C, and LN, seed germination was higher after storage in LN for three species. When seeds
and fungi were stored together in LN, germination was higher for four species than using LN seed and non-LN fungi, non-LN seed and LN fungi,
or non-LN seed and fungi.
Cryopreservation offers a promising method for long term storage of orchid germplasm. Since cryopreservation seems to appear species
specific in relation to pretreatment methods, more species need to be included in cryopreservation studies. This area of research will be
extremely important as more orchids are faced with extinction, and long term storage may be the only way to preserve germplasm for long
periods of time.
An abundance of research is currently ongoing that involves orchid seeds and various aspects of in vitro germination. This review demonstrates
that parameters for orchid seed germination appear to be species specific. In order to optimize germination, researchers should attempt to mimic
the natural growing conditions experienced by each species, whether those conditions are photoperiod or temperature. To thoroughly study in
vitro seed germination, both asymbiotic and symbiotic germination are necessary. Asymbiotic germination is an excellent technique to study
biotic and abiotic factors of orchid seed biology, while symbiotic germination provides a way to investigate the physiological correct mechanism
of orchid seed germination. Although great advances are being made, a lack of understanding in orchid seed physiology, ecology, and whole
plant ecology remains. Future research must examine dormancy mechanisms and the techniques to overcome these dormancies. Also long-term
germplasm storage should be investigated more thoroughly. Finally, if conservation is an ultimate goal for seed germination experiments,
reintroduction or field transplant methods must be examined further. Few published articles exist on field transplanting orchid seedlings or plants,
and limited knowledge about field survival still exists. Many orchid species are threatened with extinction from land conversion, as well habitat
mismanagement. The goal for most orchid conservation research should be to manage existing orchid populations to prevent population and
species loss. Researching orchid seed germination, physiology, and ecology is a key step in the recovery of at risk populations and species.
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Floriculture, Ornamental and Plant Biotechnology Volume V ©2008 Global Science Books, UK
... The germination rate in 210-day-old SLC seeds significantly decreased (Table 1). Several factors may contribute to the low germinability of mature seeds of various orchids, such as the presence of chemical inhibitors [31], impermeable testa [30], and lack of germination-promoting phytohormones [32]. ...
... Besides culture media, seed age, and AC, another vital factor, PGR, has also shown a significant effect on SLC seed germination (Tables 3 and 4). In asymbiotic in vitro propagation, various PGRs have often been used to increase the seed germination rate of several orchids [14,21,22,32], including C. appendiculata [8,27]. Yang et al. [8] examined the effects of different levels of auxins (IAA, IBA, and NAA) in MS medium on the germination of C. appendiculata seeds and found that the greatest rate (76.42%) of asymbiotic germination with 5.4 µM of NAA. ...
... Protocorms obtained from the orchid seeds are often used as explants for the mass production of seedlings. The multiplication and conversion of protocorms are often influenced by PGR [32]. This study observed protocorm multiplication only on cytokinin-containing MS medium. ...
Full-text available
Cremastra appendiculata var. variabilis (Blume) I.D. Lund), also known as single-leaf cremastra (SLC), is a rare and threatened species native to Korea, and it has the potential to be grown as a beautiful flowering pot or garden plant. There is still no reliable strategy to multiply SLC. Thus, an effective method for propagating single-leaf cremastra was needed for its conservation and mass production. In the present study, we examined the effects of culture media, seed age, activated charcoal, and plant growth regulators on in vitro asymbiotic seed germination, secondary protocorm induction, and seedling formation. Asymbiotic seed germination of SLC was influenced by culture media, seed age, and their interaction. The addition of activated charcoal (500 mg/L) to the Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium increased the rate of germination. The seeds were best germinated (91.9%) by culturing on MS medium supplemented with activated charcoal (500 mg/L), α-naphthaleneacetic acid (3 µM), and kinetin (1 µM). The highest number (28.9) of secondary protocorms were produced when protocorms were cultured on MS medium containing 6-benzyladenine (4 µM) and kinetin (2 µM). When the protocorms were cultivated in a medium containing gibberellic acid (1 µM), they were able to transform into SLC with the highest success rate (78.7%). The propagation protocol described here may be helpful for SLC restoration programs and large-scale production.
... At the rooting stage, a 1/2 MS medium supplemented with 1.0 g/L AC, 0.5 g/L dolomite flour, 15 g/L potato homogenate, and 30 g/L banana homogenate was most suitable for the growth and rooting of seedlings (Table 14.1). Growth and development composition for in vitro protocols varies from species to species (Kauth et al. 2008;Zeng et al. 2013;Diengdoh et al. 2017). Terrestrial orchids unlike their epiphytic counterparts are difficult to germinate in vitro and fail to establish in soil on a large scale (Batty et al. 2001;Stewart and Kane 2006;Swarts and Dixon 2009). ...
... Asymbiotic seed germination success depends on conditions like pollination origin and maturity; germination conditions and the constituents in the growth media (Arditti 1967;Kauth et al. 2008). An in-depth review of in vitro orchid seed germination was provided by Kauth et al. (2008). ...
... Asymbiotic seed germination success depends on conditions like pollination origin and maturity; germination conditions and the constituents in the growth media (Arditti 1967;Kauth et al. 2008). An in-depth review of in vitro orchid seed germination was provided by Kauth et al. (2008). Despite many successes of in vitro asymbiotic seed germination of many endangered and threatened orchid taxa (Mohanty et al. 2012;Diengdoh et al. 2017; Deb and Jakha 2019), protocol varies since the conditions of tissue culture at each step are largely species-specific Bhattacharyya et al. 2016). ...
This edited book is focusing on the novel and innovative procedures in tissue culture for large-scale production of plantation and horticulture crops. It is bringing out a comprehensive collection of information on commercial-scale tissue culture with the objective of producing high-quality, disease-free and uniform planting material. Developing low-cost commercial tissue culture can be one of the best possible ways to attain the goal of sustainable agriculture. Tissue culture provides a means for rapid clonal propagation of desired cultivars, and a mechanism for somatic hybridization and in vitro selection of novel genotypes. The application of plant tissue culture technology in horticulture and plantation crops provides an efficient method to improve the quality and nutrition of the crops. This book includes a description of highly efficient, low cost in vitro regeneration protocols of important plantation and horticulture crops with a detailed guideline to establish a commercial plant tissue culture facility including certification, packaging and transportation of plantlets. The book discusses somatic embryogenesis, virus elimination, genetic transformation, protoplast fusion, haploid production, coculture of endophytic fungi, effects of light and ionizing radiation as well as the application of bioreactors. This book is useful for a wide range of readers such as, academicians, students, research scientists, horticulturists, agriculturists, industrial entrepreneurs, and agro-industry employees.
... At the rooting stage, a 1/2 MS medium supplemented with 1.0 g/L AC, 0.5 g/L dolomite flour, 15 g/L potato homogenate, and 30 g/L banana homogenate was most suitable for the growth and rooting of seedlings (Table 14.1). Growth and development composition for in vitro protocols varies from species to species (Kauth et al. 2008;Zeng et al. 2013;Diengdoh et al. 2017). Terrestrial orchids unlike their epiphytic counterparts are difficult to germinate in vitro and fail to establish in soil on a large scale (Batty et al. 2001;Stewart and Kane 2006;Swarts and Dixon 2009). ...
... Asymbiotic seed germination success depends on conditions like pollination origin and maturity; germination conditions and the constituents in the growth media (Arditti 1967;Kauth et al. 2008). An in-depth review of in vitro orchid seed germination was provided by Kauth et al. (2008). ...
... Asymbiotic seed germination success depends on conditions like pollination origin and maturity; germination conditions and the constituents in the growth media (Arditti 1967;Kauth et al. 2008). An in-depth review of in vitro orchid seed germination was provided by Kauth et al. (2008). Despite many successes of in vitro asymbiotic seed germination of many endangered and threatened orchid taxa (Mohanty et al. 2012;Diengdoh et al. 2017; Deb and Jakha 2019), protocol varies since the conditions of tissue culture at each step are largely species-specific Bhattacharyya et al. 2016). ...
Explant preference is a key factor for efficient and sustainable plant propagation under in vitro conditions. Plant genotype and structure must be well observed and identified for the best explant which may differ in the axillary bud breakings using terminal buds on stems located above ground or specialized/underground stems such as bulbs scales, base plates of corms, and the shoot tips of suckers. Since plant factory systems are aimed at uniform and cost-effective propagation systems, determination of explant type and culture conditions are the most critical factors for the establishment of shoot multiplication rate. In this chapter, several horticulture plants including house plants (Monstera, Philodendron, Begonia, etc.), and fruit trees (Aronia, banana, walnut, etc.) used in commercial-scale production in plant factories were investigated for the understanding of the nature of explants as per culture conditions. This phenomenon is also highly correlated with effective surface sterilization. Since plant factories rely on an automation system for particular crops, replenishment of starting material in each cloning cycle prevents the emergence of undesirable traits due to the somaclonal variations. This study reports a comparative and in situ analysis of explant choice for the scalable vitro-plant productions.
... Another limiting factor for independent germination of seeds of terrestrial orchids is the very specific seed dormancy, which a group of authors (Baskin and Baskin, 2014) refer to as morpho-physiological seed dormancy. Due to the above-mentioned deficiencies, especially the lack of nutrients necessary for seed germination, the onset of germination and protocorm formation is conditioned by the formation of symbiosis with suitable fungi that supply the embryo with water, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins (Rasmussen, 1992(Rasmussen, , 1995Yoder et al., 2000;Kauth et al., 2008 ;Huang et al., 2018). Johnson et al. (2007) and Kunakhonnuruk et al. (2018) found that in vitro germination of terrestrial orchids' seeds is the most efficient method for their propagation. ...
... In the asymbiotic seed germination technique, seed maturity, seed dormancy and sterilization, the composition of the culture medium, illumination and temperature have the strongest effects on germination (Arditi, 1967;Rasmussen, 1995;Kauth et al., 2008;Zeng et al., 2014;Duli c et al., 2020b;Mercado and Delgado, 2020;Liu et al., 2022). The content of minerals as well as their available forms in the culture medium are the most important prerequisites in the plant tissue culture. ...
Protocols for asymbiotic seed germination and seedling development of two terrestrial orchid species – Gimnadenia conopsea and Anacamptis pyramidalis are presented in this paper. Detail examination covered nutrient media: Knudson C (KC) and Malmgren (MM); organic supplements: coconut water (CW), pineapple juice (PJ), peptone (PE), casein hydrolysate (CA) and glutamine (A); different lighting conditions – 0/24 Light / Dark (L / D) and 16/8 (L / D) as well as cytokinins: 6-benzyladenine (BA), kinetin (Kin), and 6- (γ, γ-dimethylallylamino) purines (2 -iP) aiming to assess asymbiotic seed germination in controlled in vitro conditions, to define the optimal protocol for their mass propagation. The obtained results indicate that the nutrient medium MM and conditions of complete darkness encourage seed germination in both investigated species, while the organic supplements amendment resulted in a shortened period necessary for seed germination as well as a significantly higher percentage of germination. In Gymnadenia conopsea, the highest percentage of germination (73,79%) accompanied by the highest embryo/protocorm morphometric characteristics (1.40 mm average height, 1.21 mm average width, and 0.30 mm average shoot height) was achieved on MM-CW nutrient medium. A similar result was observed for Anacamptis pyramidalis with 69,88% germinated seeds on MM-CW nutrient medium, while the highest morphometric values were 1.10 mm (on MM-CW) for height, 1.00 mm (on MM-PE) for width and 0.57 mm (on MM-PE) for bud height. On the contrary, the results obtained on nutrient medium KC and under the 16/8 L / D lighting conditions indicate the inhibitory effect of these conditions on the seeds germination in examined species. A experiment with chitokinin treatments indicates that the best result in G. conopsea was achieved on the medium with the addition of 0.3 mg L−1 2iP with 5.33 mm for plant height, 1,13 root numbers and 12.26 mm root lenght, while in A. pyramidalis 0.3 mg L−1 Kin emerged as the most suitable for the development of the upper part of the plant (3.33 mm), while the medium enriched with 0.3 mg L−1 BA had a positive effect on the formation of the root system.
... The high salt contents in MS medium were more suitable for growth of the seedlings as has been reported in other terrestrial orchids (Gogoi et al., 2012;Diengdoh et al., 2020;An et al., 2021). This implies that the nutrient requirements of the protocorm vary during the different stages of development of shoots and roots which are species dependent (Kauth et al., 2008;Bae et al., 2010;Imsomboon et al., 2017). Addition of activated charcoal in the optimal medium is beneficial as an absorptive agent as it helps in controlling the browning of the explants (Magrini and De Vitis, 2017;Irshad et al., 2018). ...
Paphiopedilum villosum Lindl. Stein, is a horticulturally important orchid as it is widely traded for its cut-flower and ornamental value, which is mainly attributed to long shelf-life of the flowers. High commercial demands of this genus have led to its extensive collection leading to the population diminution from the wild habitats. In vitro propagation technology is a prominent tool for multiplication of orchids for commercial and conservational purposes. In the present study, the effects of nutrient media composition and phytohor-mones in enhancing the shoot multiplication and seedling proliferation of P. villosum using in vitro technique was assessed. The optimal medium for shoot proliferation and root development was found to be Murashige and Skoog (MS, 1962) with the highest response of 70.8% in seedling development. Amongst the cytokinins, 10 mM meta-topolin (mT) supplemented in MS medium was found to be the most conducive for developing longest shoots (5.8 cm) and roots (4.5 cm). The auxin, indole-3-propionic acid (IPA) at 5 mM in MS medium resulted in 4.7 cm long shoots and 4.1 cm long roots. During acclimatization, the in vitro-raised seedlings showed 63.1% survival in compost mix substratum. The protocol described in the present study would be of immense importance in capping the over-exploitation of P. villosum from its natural habitat and to further enhance its large-scale propagation its large-scale propagation and conservation.
... Thus, culturing at an early stage can save time. A review on in vitro orchid seed germination was provided by Kauth et al. (2008). Seed germination protocols have been developed for various species of Cymbidium, viz. ...
Cymbidium whiteae King & Pantl is an endemic and endangered orchid species found in Sikkim, India. We evaluated the current population distribution and conservation needs of this species during 2017–2019 in North Sikkim, Sikkim, India. The distribution of the species ranged from 1020 to 1479 m a.s.l. but was confined to a small restricted area of the lower Dzongu region of North Sikkim district. The numbers of clumps at survey sites varied from 2 to 5 with a total population of 43 clumps at 17 sites. The flower number and capsules per clump varied from 4 to 12 and 3 to 12, respectively. Some flowering-sized individuals neither flowered nor set any seed pods. Preliminary studies on asymbiotic seed germination indicated that seeds germinate on MS media supplemented with 0.2 mg BAP and develop into plantlets on the same media. We analysed the distribution pattern, prepared a distribution map, assessed the conservation status based on the IUCN criteria, and suggest suitable in situ and ex situ conservation measures and sustainable utilization. Based on the IUCN criteria, Cymbidium whiteae was assessed as critically endangered (CR).
Paphiopedilum is a popular and horticulturally important orchid and is also known as lady’s slipper orchid. The genus is widely traded as cut flowers and potted plants due to its spectacularly beautiful flowers with a long shelf-life. Due to market demands, the orchids of this genus has been collected excessively leading to endangerment to its wild populations. Propagation of this orchid for commercialization through the conventional method has a slow growth rate, low seed germination rate and requires the association of mycorrhizal fungi for germination. Hence, in vitro propagation or micropropagation provides an alternative approach in meeting the needs for sustainable commercial demand and also in the conservation of wild slipper orchids. This chapter aims to discuss the latest research progress on in vitro propagation and acclimatization of Paphiopedilum orchids.
Nodal and internode explant culture is a simple and effective method in micropropagation. However, some plants have very short and not well-defined internodes, such as Paphiopedilum and Nepenthes. As a result, defined nodal and internodal explants are difficult to obtain for micropropagation purposes. Furthermore, the close clustering of leaves makes surface decontamination of explants difficult. Red LED, dark conditions, and gibberellic acid (GA3) have been reported to stimulate stem elongation under ex vitro and in vitro conditions. In this chapter, the effects of LED lights, different blue to red LED ratios, dark conditions, and GA3 are used to study the stem elongation of Paphiopedilum, Anthurium, and Nepenthes. The results of this study could increase the propagation efficiency in these plants.
A method is described by which seeds of terrestrial orchids are sown and retrieved in the field under almost natural conditions. For the first time it is possible to conduct a quantitative study of orchid germination in situ and observe seasonal growth and mortality of seedlings. The technique has also enabled us to investigate the relation between the site where the seeds are sown, the availability of an appropriate fungus to infect the seeds, and seedling establishment in the soil. Five local species were studied. Corallorhiza odontorhiza, Goodyera pubescens, and Galearis spectabilis all began to germinate in May–June, after 23-30 weeks in the soil. These species differed in their dependency on infection at germination time, but none of the seedlings developed beyond the point of rupturing the testa except when infected. Seeds of Liparis lilifolia and Tipularia discolor did not germinate within the first 12 months of the experiment. The implications and potential uses of this field sowing technique for further studies and for other kinds of minute seeds are discussed.
Germinating seeds and developing seedlings of Phalaenopsis Habsburg and Phalaenopsis Ruth Burton × (Phalaenopsis Abendrot × Phalaenopsis Abendrot) can utilize glucose, maltose, maltotriose, maltotetraose, maltopentaose, maltohexaose, and maltoheptaose as carbon sources. Fresh weight decreased significantly with increased polymerization from glucose through maltoheptaose. Seedling survival declined on higher molecular weight sugars reaching levels which were significantly different from those on glucose. Sugar uptake increased moderately with increasing molecular weight of oligomers. The maltooligosaccharides used in these experiments are hydrolyzed by the orchid seedlings and of the sugars which can support good growth glucose, but not maltose accumulate in culture media. As a result, media which supported seedlings contained substantial levels of glucose, the starting sugars, and decreasing amounts of the next shorter oligomers. This suggests enzymatic endwise hydrolysis of these maltooligosaccharides. Similar results were obtained with Phalaenopsis seedlings produced from seeds which were germinated on sugar-free medium and transferred to a solution containing the same oligomers. Sugars in media which did not support seedlings were not hydrolyzed.
Seeds of Cattleya aurantiaca (Orchidaceae) were germinated and grown aseptically on Knudson C medium containing 2.5, 5, 10, 20, and 50 mg l⁻¹ of 2-chloroethylphosphonic acid (Ethephon), ethylphosphonic acid, or the inorganic acid moiety of both, phosphosphorous (phosphonic) acid. 2-Chloroethylphosphonic acid, an ethylene precursor, reduced leaf length at 5–50 mg l⁻¹ proportional to increasing concentrations. Seedlings produced fewer leaves within the range of 20–50 mg l⁻¹ Ethephon compared to lower concentrations (2.5–10 mg l⁻¹). Germination was not affected adversely. Cultures containing the homologous, but not ethylene-generating ethylphosphonic acid in the same concentrations brought about similar but generally less severe reductions in leaf length and number. Phosphorous acid at the same concentration levels did not reduce the number and length of leaves. Our observation suggests that the intact organic phosphonates contribute to the inhibition of leaf growth caused by ethylene, which is released slowly from Ethephon in the culture medium and/or plant tissue, following uptake.
Seasonal patterns of photosynthesis and carbon allocation were determined for Tipularia discolor, a summer-deciduous wintergreen orchid of the southeastern United States, to assess the effects of environmental conditions and leaf age on carbon acquisition and allocation patterns. There was no shift in the optimum temperature for photosynthesis (Topt) on a seasonal basis and Topt (≈26 C) was at least 10 C higher than daily maximum air temperature during most of the growing season. Lack of photosynthetic adjustment in Tipularia to seasonal fluctuations in temperature and light suggested that the photosynthetic characteristics of this wintergreen were more similar to those of spring ephemerals than to those of evergreens and summer-active herbs. The decline in photosynthetic capacity during the winter growing season for Tipularia, largely due to leaf age effects, gradually reduced net photosynthetic rates in the field despite more favorable light and temperature conditions. Photosynthesis in the field was primarily limited by environmental conditions in early- and mid-season and by photosynthetic capacity in late-season. A ¹⁴CO2 labelling experiment demonstrated that patterns of carbon allocation to vegetative structures were affected by the season of photosynthetic carbon fixation, whereas reproductive structures received 21% of the recovered labelled carbon regardless of the period of labelling. Carbon acquired and stored during all periods of the growing season was used to produce new vegetative and reproductive structures.
Ethylene is a plant hormone which is involved in many aspects of plant development, including ripening of climacteric fruits. Its biosynthetic pathway involves the following steps: S-adenosyl-methionine → 1-ammocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) → ethylene. These steps are catalyzed ACC synthase and ACC oxidase. ACC can also be converted into malonyl-ACC by the ACC N-malonyltransferase. Genes encoding ACC synthase and ACC oxydase have been isolated and characterized thus allowing genetic manipulation of ethylene biosynthesis. Fruits in which ethylene production has been inhibited by antisense ACC synthase and ACC oxydase genes have been obtained. Important discoveries have been made recently on the ethylene perception and transduction pathway. The ethylene receptor protein has been characterized and new chemical antagonists have been deviced.