Physiological and biochemical responses to water stress and salinity of the invasive moth plant, Araujia sericifera brot., during seed germination and vegetative growth.
Araujia sericifera is an invasive plant with an increasing presence in South East Spain, where it produces damage to native trees and shrubs and citric orchards. As the climatic conditions in the study area are becoming harsher due to the climate change, the stress tolerance of this species has been studied during germination and vegetative growth. Growth parameters, photosynthetic pigments, ion accumulation, and antioxidant mechanisms were analysed in plants that were subjected to water deficit and salt stress. Seed germination was reduced by salinity but 50% of the seeds still germinated at 50 mM NaCl. The ungerminated seeds did not lose their germination capacity as shown in 'recovery' germination assays in distilled water. Germination was less affected by osmotic stress that was induced by polyethylene glycol (PEG), and germination velocity increased in the recovery treatments after exposure to NaCl or PEG. Plant growth was practically unaffected by 150 mM NaCl but inhibited by higher NaCl concentrations or severe drought stress. Nevertheless, all the plants survived throughout the experiment, even under high salinity (600 mM NaCl). A. sericifera relative stress tolerance relies, at least to some extent, on effective antioxidant mechanisms that are based on flavonoid biosynthesis and the activation of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, ascorbate peroxidase, and glutathione reductase.