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Biology

The ground pine uses a double-flowering strategy. It can flower at any time from June to October, depending on the time of seed germination. A proportion of its seeds from any spring will germinate in autumn, but some will also germinate the next spring if protected from winter frosts. Even when suitable growing areas are prepared, the plant does not readily occupy these because it has no known mechanism for spreading, other than dispersal by rabbits, stock or human disturbance, but just fortifies itself in small colonies, rarely more than a few hundred square metres in area. Although it is considered to be an annual plant, it occasionally behaves as a short-lived perennial. It is a non-competitive species, but the seeds can lay dormant for at least 50 years, possibly longer, and may germinate when the soil is disturbed. The species spreads very slowly, but can hang on in established sites and bloom again after some considerable time when the right conditions allow. The plant itself contains a cocktail of unpleasant chemicals that make it very unattractive to herbivores, and most learn not to eat it. It is optimised for warm, dry environments with very narrow, thick-skinned leaves that minimise water loss from evaporation.

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