Production, Composition, and Ecological Function of Sweet-Basil-Seed Mucilage during Hydration


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The sweet-basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) fruit/pericarp produces mucilage that engulfs the fruit and seed within minutes of hydration. Seed mucilage is produced by plant species that have adapted to arid, sandy soils. This study was conducted to determine how basil-seed mucilage improves ecological fitness. A second objective was to find ways to remove mucilage, which may interfere with commercial planting. Basil fruit/seeds were examined using light and environmental scanning electron microscopy. Columnar structures of basil mucilage rapidly unfolded from the pericarp upon initial hydration. Dilute hydrochloric acid removed the mucilage, which decreased the water content four-fold but did not inhibit seed germination in a laboratory test. Nondestructive Fourier-transform mid-infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy confirmed that the mucilage was primarily composed of hemicellulose that anchored the basil seed to resist movement. The fully hydrated seeds approached zero water potential, so the mucilage did not interfere with hydration. The seeds that were planted in growing media with mucilage had from 12 to 28% higher seedling emergence and survival percentages after 10 days than seeds without mucilage. Basil-fruit/seed mucilage provides a reservoir of loosely bound water at high water potential for seed germination and early seedling development, thus improving survivability under low moisture.



seed biology, seed ecology, stand establishment, mucilage removal, germination, myxodiaspory, seed–water relations


Zhou, D.; Barney, J.N.; Welbaum, G.E. Production, Composition, and Ecological Function of Sweet-Basil-Seed Mucilage during Hydration. Horticulturae 2022, 8, 327.