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Arizona sycamore (Platanus wrightii: Platanaceae) is a riparian tree of the southwestern United States and adjacent Mexico. It is failing to reproduce in certain canyons where mature, seed-producing trees of this species occur. Three hypotheses were tested to explain this reproductive failure: I) the presence of domestic cattle prevents reproduction, 2) seeds produced in certain canyons are inviable, and 3) annual flash floods destroy seedlings and young saplings but not the large, mature trees.

Canyons, either grazed or ungrazed by domestic animals, were surveyed for the presence of seedlings and young trees. In the laboratory, seeds were tested for viability, germinability in petri dishes, and emergence of seedlings from soil. Canyons which possessed seedlings and young saplings were censused before and after flooding. From these efforts, we conclude that reproductive failure of Arizona sycamore in certain canyons cannot be explained either by activities of domestic animals or by a lack of viable, germinable seeds. Flash flooding events in some canyons washed out the seedlings and saplings present, but left viable larger trees. We also found that a permanent, high water table was essential to propagule survival.

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© 1989 Jane H. Bock, Carl E. Bock

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