Journal of Tropical Ecology

Germination strategy of the East African savanna tree Acacia tortilis

Paul E. Loth a1c1p1, Willem F. de Boer a1, Ignas M. A. Heitkönig a1 and Herbert H. T. Prins a1
a1 Resource Ecology Group, Wageningen University, Bornsesteeg 69, 6708 PD Wageningen, The Netherlands

Article author query
loth pe   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
de boer wf   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
heitkonig im   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
prins hh   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Germination of Acacia tortilis seeds strongly depends on micro-site conditions. In Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania, Acacia tortilis occurs abundantly in recently abandoned arable fields and in elephant-mediated gaps in acacia woodland, but does not regenerate in grass swards or beneath canopies. We examined the germination of Acacia tortilis using field and laboratory experiments. Seeds placed on top of the soil rarely germinated, while seeds covered with elephant dung or buried under the soil surface had a germination success between 23–43%. On bare soil 39% of both the dung-covered and buried seeds germinated, in perennial grass swards 24–43%, and under tree canopies 10–24% respectively. In laboratory experiments, seed water absorption correlated positively with temperature up to 41 °C, while subsequent germination was optimal at lower (21–23 °C) temperatures. Seeds that had absorbed water lost their viability when kept above 35.5 °C. The absence of light did not significantly influence germination success. Acacia tortilis does not actively disperse its seeds, but regeneration outside tree canopies was substantial. The regeneration potential thus strongly depends on the physiognomy of the vegetation.

(Accepted February 10 2005)

Key Words: fire; herbivores; rainfall; seed dispersal; seeds; Tanzania; vegetation; woodland dynamics.

c1 Corresponding author: Email:
p1 Present Address: Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden University, PO Box 9518, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands