The secret life of smoke in fostering rebirth and renewal of burned landscape

January 27, 2010
Smoke from forest fires contains substances that regulate seed germination and appear to play a key role in the rebirth and renewal of burned landscape. Credit: iStock

The innermost secrets of fire's role in the rebirth and renewal of forests and grasslands are being revealed in research that has identified plant growth promoters and inhibitors in smoke. In the latest discovery about smoke's secret life, an international team of scientists are reporting discovery of a plant growth inhibitor in smoke. The study appears in ACS's Journal of Natural Products.

"Smoke plays an intriguing role in promoting the germination of seeds of many species following a fire," Johannes Van Staden and colleagues point out in the report. They previously discovered a in smoke from burning plants that promotes . Such seeds, which remain in the undercover on and meadow floors after fires have been extinguished, are responsible for the surprisingly rapid regrowth of fire-devastated landscapes.

In their new research, the scientists report discovery of an inhibitor compound that may block the action of the stimulator, preventing germination of seeds. They suspect that the compounds may be part of a carefully crafted natural regulatory system for repopulating fire-ravaged landscapes. Interaction of these and other compounds may ensure that seeds remain dormant until environmental conditions are best for germination. The inhibitor thus may delay germination of seeds until moisture and temperature are right, and then take a back seat to the germination promoter in smoke.

Explore further: Researchers watch seeds in 3D and discover an unknown air path

More information: "Butenolides from Plant-Derived Smoke: Natural Plant-Growth Regulators with Antagonistic Actions on Seed Germination", Journal of Natural Products,

Related Stories

Can Nanotubes Help Your Garden Grow?

October 6, 2009

( -- When we think of nanotubes, we often think of solar panels and physical science. However, it appears that nanotubes can also provide valuable help to plants as a fertilizer. Just add carbon nanotubes, say ...

Recommended for you

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

Getting under the skin of a medieval mystery

November 23, 2015

A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first ...

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.