Salicylic Acid: A Natural Inducer of Heat Production in Arum Lilies

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Science  25 Sep 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4822, pp. 1601-1602
DOI: 10.1126/science.237.4822.1601


For more than 50 years the identity of "calorigen," the agent that triggers pronounced heat production in the flowers and inflorescences of some thermogenic plants, remained obscure. Mass spectroscopic analysis of highly purified calorigen extracted from the male flowers of Sauromatum guttatum Schott (voodoo lily) revealed the presence of 2-hydroxybenzoic (salicylic) acid. Application of salicylic acid at 0.13 microgram per gram (fresh weight) to sections of the upper part of the plant's immature spadix, known as the appendix, led to temperature increases of as much as 12 Celsius degrees. These increases duplicated, in both magnitude and timing, the temperature increases produced by the crude calorigen extract. The sensitivity of appendix tissue to salicylic acid increases daily with the approach of anthesis and is controlled by the photoperiod. Thus, at least in some Arum lilies, salicylic acid functions as an endogenous regulator of heat production.