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Nitrogen Oxide Pollution May Spark Seeds' Growth

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Science  23 May 1997:
Vol. 276, Issue 5316, pp. 1199
DOI: 10.1126/science.276.5316.1199

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Two ecologists have learned that the seeds of a common California wildflower can be prompted to germinate by exposure to nitrogen oxides, gases produced by both natural wildfires and motor vehicles and power plants. The finding, reported on page 1248, helps explain why the flower springs up so quickly after brush fires. It also raises a provocative question: Could nitrogen oxides in air pollution be fooling the seeds of this and other fire-adapted plants into germinating when conditions are deadly to the seedlings?