This study provides new information on fruit ripening of Bursera, from a structural and phenological point of view, we show some development patterns that must be taken into account in future physiological, ecological and management studies.
Background and aims
The deterioration of seasonally tropical dry forests will stop with the implementation of management plans for this ecosystem. To develop these plans, we require information regarding aspects such as germination and the presence of ‘empty seeds’ of representative species—like, for example, Bursera, a genus with a high number of endemic species of the Mesoamerican Hotspot—that would enable us to propagate its species. The main purpose of this study is to describe the phenological and structural characteristics of fruits of 12 Bursera species and provide useful data for future studies on germination and seed dispersal, and to acquire new and useful information to understand the phylogenetic relationships of the Burseraceae family.
We described the phenology of fruit ripening in 12 species of Bursera. Fruits were collected from the study sites in three different stages of development. The histochemical and anatomical characteristics of fruits of all species were described with the use of inclusion techniques and scanning microscopy.
There is a time gap between the development of the ovary and the development of the ovule in the 12 studied species. The exposed pseudoaril during the dispersion stage is an indicator of the seed's maturity and the fruit's viability. The Bursera fruit shows the same structural pattern as that of Commiphora, as well as many similarities with species of the Anacardiaceae family. All species develop parthenocarpic fruits that retain the structural characteristics of the immature fruits: soft tissues rich in nitrogen compounds and few chemical and physical defences. Insects were found mainly inside the parthenocarpic fruits in eight species of Bursera.
The dispersion unit in Bursera consists of a seed, a lignified endocarp that protects the seed, and a pseudoaril that helps attract seed dispersers. The production of parthenocarpic fruits is energy saving; however, it is necessary to evaluate the potential benefits of this phenomenon.