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Ethnobotany, germination and growth of eleocharis sphacelata

Eleocharis sphacelata, distributed over Australia, Papa New Guinea and predominantly in the north of the North Island New Zealand, occupies the littoral margins of fresh water wetlands and lakes. To assist Eleocharis sphacelata revegetation efforts, research recorded traditional ecological knowledge held by users, determined best methodologies for germination of seed, and established techniques for improved transfer of juvenile plantlets. Interviews with cultural knowledge holders revealed a declining but persistent oral repository in tikanga (customs) and practices despite diminishing plant availability. Eleocharis sphacelata has traditionally and contemporarily been used as a fibre for weaving into mats, with its spongy pith providing increased warmth and comfort. Group harvesting, with some cutting and others sorting and binding is the first step in a short preparation sequence, with the drying of the stems (for most this is in the shade) the only other preparation needed before weaving commences. Cultural genealogical descriptions provide a clear portrait of the ecological position Eleocharis sphacelata sits within its natural habitat and presents a phylogeny or schemata comparable to biological science. Published information identifies cultural uses and practices for the fibre of this wetland sedge. Fresh and stored seeds were subjected to five treatments at three water levels to determine the best methodology for increased germination rates. Findings illustrate how a scarification pre-treatment and water depth increases up to 15 cm enhances germination rates of Eleocharis sphacelata. Overnight bleaching of seed harvested one month earlier (January 2008) then sown under damp conditions provided increased germination until April. Fresh bleached seed sown under 5 cm and 15 cm of water produced significant increases in germination from September. Seasonal timing and variation in water depth as germination triggers indicate dual germination strategies employed by Eleocharis sphacelata. In November 2007 seed grown seedlings and vegetative propagules were planted in situ under three water depths to establish which plantlet type would provide increased juvenile survival when used in revegetation projects. Findings determined that seed grown seedlings planted under 15 cm of water had the highest survival and produced a greater number of culms per plantlet, however vegetative propagules were better able to survive in damp conditions. Flowering occurred in over 25% of remaining vegetative and seed grown seedlings by the following October indicating the potential for new transfers to be reproducing within one season. Further collaborating between Māori and western science would augment and enhance understanding of transferable environmental methodologies. Possible dual germination strategies by the seed were revealed and further research would determine if this replicates the reproductive and growth capabilities of Eleocharis sphacelata and other wetland sedges in their natural environment. Additional seed quality and technological research would increase potential for seed performance. Determining genetic variety within local, regional and national Eleocharis sphacelata swards would establish bounds of local provenance.
Type of thesis
Kapa, M. M. (2009). Ethnobotany, germination and growth of eleocharis sphacelata (Thesis, Master of Science (MSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/3268
The University of Waikato
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