Adaptation to lead in a Pb/Zn-mine population of Marrubium cuneatum

Behrooz Salehi-Eskandari, Reza Hesami*, Azam Salimi, Henk Schat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Marrubium cuneatum is an endemic Iranian plant species, which can be found in lead-contaminated environments. This study aimed to investigate the effects of lead on the growth and germination in two M. cuneatum populations, from metalliferous, Pb-contaminated and uncontaminated soil, respectively. Soil and plant samples of the Tang-e Douzan Pb-Zn mine and Morghab Spring (non-contaminated site) were collected and analysed. Germination and growth were recorded under increasing Pb exposure in the non-metallicolous (NM) and the metallicolous (M) local M. cuneatum populations. Germination percentage (GP), mean germination time (MGT), germination index (GI), healthy plant percentage (HPP), seedling death (SD), fresh weight (FW) and dry weight (DW), were measured. Primary assessments showed toxic levels of lead in soil samples of the Tang-e Douzan mine and in leaves of plants growing at the mine site. Germination experiments showed that the germination parameters were stimulated by low concentrations of Pb in both populations, but inhibited by high concentrations. However, the adverse effects of Pb at high concentrations on GP, GI, and HPP were significantly less in the M population. The mortality of germinating seeds (SD) was consistently associated with fungal infection, which gradually decreased with increasing Pb exposure, but to the same degree in both populations. Growth experiments clearly demonstrated Pb hypertolerance in the M population. In the NM population, seedling growth is more sensitive to excess Pb than seed germination, compared to the M population. The M population has high biomass and a relatively high Pb accumulation in its shoots, which suggests it is a suitable candidate for phyto-extraction of Pb.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152460
JournalFlora: Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Hyper-tolerance
  • Hyperaccumulation
  • Lead contamination
  • Metallophyte
  • Phytoremediation
  • Seed germination


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