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Seed Fecundity, Persistence, and Germination Biology of Prairie Groundcherry (Physalis hederifolia) in Australia

  • Hanwen Wu (a1), Rex Stanton (a2) and Deirdre Lemerle (a3)


Prairie groundcherry [Physalis hederifolia (A. Gray) var. fendleri (A. Gray) Cronquist] is an invasive perennial weed with the potential to become a significant summer weed across 409 million hectares in Australia. Current management practices do not provide effective control of established populations. A better understanding of the seed biology is needed to effectively manage this weed. A series of field and laboratory studies were conducted to determine plant fecundity, soil seedbank longevity, and the factors that affect seed germination. Physalis hederifolia has the capacity to produce 66 to 86 berries plant−1, 51 to 74 seeds berry−1, and approximately 4,500 seeds plant−1, with the seeds potentially able to persist in the soil seedbank for 20 yr if buried in an intact dry berry pod. The bare-seed component of the soil seedbank can be virtually exhausted within 3 yr if cultivation is minimized to avoid burial of seed. Optimal temperature for germination is diurnal fluctuations of 15 C within the temperature range of 10 and 30 C. Increasing osmotic stress levels reduced the germination under all temperature regimes, with less than 6% germination occurring at −0.96 MPa. Physalis hederifolia seed germination was not significantly affected by substrate pH 4 to 10 or salt levels less than 160 mM, while the germination was significantly reduced at NaCl concentrations above 160 mM. These results suggest that P. hederifolia can adapt to a range of substrate conditions. Stopping seed set, avoiding grazing plants with viable seeds, and minimizing seed burial in the soil are some effective strategies to control this weed.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Hanwen Wu, Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation (NSW Department of Primary Industries and Charles Sturt University), Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Wagga Wagga, Pine Gully Road, NSW 2650, Australia. (Email:


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