Effect of environmental factors on the germination and emergence of Salvia verbenaca L. cultivars (verbenaca and vernalis): an invasive species in semi-arid and arid rangeland regions.
Salvia verbenaca (wild sage) is a commonly cultivated herbal medicine plant, which is native to the Mediterranean climate regions of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. However, it has become an invasive species in semi-arid and arid regions of southern Australia. Two varieties are present in this region, var. verbenaca and var. vernalis, each of which can be distinguished by differences in morphology and flowering period. Following trials to determine the optimum temperate regime for germination and response to light and dark, seeds of both varieties were tested for their response to variations in pH, moisture stress, salinity, and burial depth. The temperature and light trial was carried out using three different temperature regimes; 30/20°C, 25/15°C and 20/12°C, and two light regimes; 12 hours light/12 hours dark and 24 hours dark, with var. vernalis responding to relatively higher temperatures than var. verbenaca. The germination rate of neither species was significantly inhibited by complete darkness when compared to rates under periodic light exposure. Both varieties germinated at near optimum rates strongly to very strongly in all pH buffer solutions, from pH 5 to pH 10, but they responded most strongly at neutral pH. Var. vernalis showed slightly more tolerance to reduced moisture availability, moderate to strong salinity, and burial depth, compared to var. verbenaca. However, even a fairly shallow burial depth of 2 cm completely inhibited germination of both varieties. Thus, in circumstances where both varieties are present in a soil seedbank, var. vernalis could be expected to establish in more challenging conditions, where moisture is limited and salinity is 'moderate to high', implying that it is a more serious threat for invasive weed in conditions where crop plants are already challenged.