Estimation of Seed Bank and Seed Viability of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence Aster, Symphyotrichum laurentianum, (Fernald) Nesom

Joni F. Kemp, Christian R. Lacroix


The Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster, Symphyotrichum laurentianum, is a member of the family Asteraceae and is listed as “threatened” by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). This rare and vulnerable halophyte grows in only a few locations in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and the Magdalen Islands, Quebec. As an annual, S. laurentianum relies exclusively on its seeds to survive to the next generation. The goal of this study was to estimate the quantity of viable S. laurentianum seeds in the persistent and transient seed banks at selected sites in Prince Edward Island. Overall, the number of seeds in the transient and persistent seed banks is low. The greatest concentration of seeds was found near the surface of the soil. In addition, only a small proportion of those seeds tested positive for viability based on Tetrazolium staining. Of the seeds in the persistent and transient seed banks combined, 53% were viable whereas only 2% of the seeds in the persistent seed bank were viable. Population surveys were also completed at the five known sites (both extinct and extant) in Prince Edward Island National Park. All sites showed signs of decline based on population estimates dating back to 1993. The Covehead Pond site showed the greatest decline: from 250-300 individuals in 1993 to only 10 individuals in 2002. The population at Dune Slack also showed a dramatic decrease from approximately 65 000 in 1999, to 2 200 individuals in 2002. Monitoring of this plant and the development of a management plan for the species are critical to its survival.


Symphyotrichum laurentianum; Aster laurentianus; Gulf of St. Lawrence Aster; seed viability; Tetrazolium; transient and persistent seed banks; rare plant; COSEWIC; Prince Edward Island National Park

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