We investigated the hypotheses that (a) differences in metal uptake exist between dandelion (Taraxacum officinale Weber; Asteraceae) clones sampled from unpolluted and polluted sites when grown in polluted media, and (b) differences in metal uptake into dandelion roots versus leaves exist for clones sampled from unpolluted and polluted sites when grown in polluted media. These hypotheses were tested by performing a series of reciprocal, greenhouse-planting experiments in which distinct dandelion clones (12 clones, identified by DNA fingerprinting, from each site type) sampled from two unpolluted and two polluted (relatively high copper [Cu], lead [Pb], and zinc [Zn] soil concentrations) sites were grown pairwise in both unpolluted (nutrient solution only) and polluted (nutrient solution 120 mg kg−1 Cu, 700 mg kg−1 Pb, and 260 mg kg−1 Zn) media (N = 48 pairwise plantings for each medium type). Analyzing the entire data set (including unpolluted and polluted treatments), dandelion clones sampled from polluted sites were shown to take up significantly greater quantities of Cu, Pb, and Zn, on both a concentration (root vs. leaves in milligrams per kilogram) and total plant (average unpolluted vs. polluted in micrograms) basis, than did clones sampled from unpolluted sites (ANOVA, P ≤ 0.05). When grown in polluted media, clones from polluted sites, on average, accumulated 4.2 times as much total Cu, 17.76 times as much total Pb, and 4.2 times as much total Zn in their tissues as clones sampled from unpolluted sites. Overall, dandelion clones sequestered significantly more Cu, Pb, and Zn in their root tissues than in their leaf tissues (ANOVA, P ≤ 0.05), regardless of the site type from which they were sampled. These results reveal that dandelions are Cu, Pb, and Zn accumulators and that differences in metal-uptake capabilities exist among North American clonal genotypes. Results indicate that dandelions, and perhaps other plant species, being screened for phytoremediation purposes should be collected from metal-polluted locales.
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