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Biological flora of Central Europe: Leucojum aestivum L.

Gilberto Parolo, Thomas Abeli, Graziano Rossi, Giuseppina Dowgiallo, Diethart Matthies
Perspectives in plant ecology, evolution and systematics 2011 v.13 no.4 pp. 319-330
Leucojum aestivum, alkaloids, alluvial soils, bulbs, eggs, flora, geophytes, habitats, harvesting, nitrogen, nitrogen content, pollen, population, population size, protected species, reproduction, seed germination, seed set, soil water content, temperature, wetlands, Central European region, Europe
Leucojum aestivum L. (Amaryllidaceae) is a polycarpic C-S-European/W-Asiatic geophyte. It is a threatened wetland species and is protected in several European countries, as a consequence of the destruction or alteration of its habitats across Europe and the harvesting of its bulbs for medical purposes (alkaloids). This paper deals with the taxonomic status, morphology, distribution, ecology and population biology of this species, with special emphasis on habitat requirements, reproductive biology, and seed germination. A detailed study in N-Italy found that L. aestivum grows on alluvial soils with high nitrogen levels. The mean size of the plants increased with the water content of the soil. Similarly, within the habitats, the water and nitrogen contents of the soil were higher in plots with L. aestivum than in those without the species. Seed set of the plants was not influenced by the size of a population, but strongly increased with the density of flowering plants. This was due to a decrease in the proportion of unfertilised eggs, indicating pollen limitation of reproduction in low-density populations. Germination tests revealed that the optimal germination temperature is between 20°C and 25°C.