Abstract

Crescentia alata is a natural resource with cultural and economic value from Mexico to Costa Rica. Nevertheless, protection of natural populations and establishment of plantations are limited by lack of information on seed germination and plant growth. This study aims to characterize size, weight and number of fruits and seeds, to evaluate the seed germination process at different temperatures and light conditions, and to determine the optimal conditions of temperature, humidity, and storage periods for viable seeds. We measured germination at five different temperatures (15, 20, 30, 20-30, and 25-30 °C), in light-dark conditions, with seed storage at three temperatures (5 °C, 15 °C, and ambient temperature: 22-24 °C) during 36 months. Mean values: fruit roundness index -1.86 (i.e. they are flattened-rounded). Fruit height 7.90 ± 2.58 cm, diameter 9.62 ± 1.21 cm; seeds were 0.75 ± 0.07 cm long and 0.67 ± 0.05 cm wide. Fruit mass 414.57 g; each fruit contained on average ca. 691 seeds. Seeds did not germinate at 15 °C or 20 °C; germination decreased in darkness; germination and viability decreased when seeds were stored at ambient temperature (22-24 °C), and when they were preserved inside fruits. The seeds of C. alata germinate better at 30 °C, exposed to light, and separated from the pulp before storage. When seeds are stored at low temperatures (5 °C and 15 °C), high germination and viability percentages (ca. 90 %) can be maintained for three years, allowing conservation programs for the species.

Keywords: Jicaro tree; seed viability; seed moisture content; fruit roundness index; Tropical Dry Forest; Costa Rica.