Few plant species have demonstrated the ability to hyperaccumulate heavy metals from contaminated soil. Recently, Pteris vittata L. has been identified as a hyperaccumulator of arsenic. Because gametophytic development is an essential stage in the fern life cycle, impacts of heavy metal hyperaccumulation on gametophytic and sporophytic tissue must be investigated if successional bioremediation efforts are to be implemented successfully. Our research showed that sporophytes as well as gametophytes of P. vittata are capable of As uptake and accumulation. Increased As (≤2500 ppm) did not inhibit spore germination, and deleterious effects on gametophyte morphology were observed only after extended time periods on media with extremely high As concentrations (≥600 ppm). Six other Pteris species varied in ability to germinate on As-containing media. Sporophytes of P. vittata showed no adverse effects when exposed to the highest soil As levels (1650 ppm); in fact, root proliferation was observed in areas of increased As concentration (250 ppm). Foliar application of an arsenical herbicide (calcium acid methanearsonate) to sporophytes resulted in decreased chlorophyll and carotenoid concentrations. Phosphate additions inhibited As uptake by sporophytes, indicating As uptake involves the phosphate transport system.
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