||Background: Spider plant [Gynandropsis gynandra (L.) Briq.], an economically promising African leafy vegetable,
characterized for leaf yield components and nutritive quality, exhibits poor seed germination that hinders a wider
expansion of the crop in urban and periurban horticultural systems. So far, there is little information pertaining to
seed morphological traits and mineral elements content that may be associated with higher seed germination. This
research investigated the hypothesis that spider plants from different geographical areas exhibited differences in
seed mineral composition, morphological traits, and germination capacity. To this end, twenty-nine accessions of
Gynandropsis gynandra from West and East-Southern Africa, and Asia were screened for variation in seed size (area,
perimeter, length, width), 10-seed weight, mean germination time, germination percentage and mineral content
variations. The scanning electron microscopy (SEM), light microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS)
solution were used to study seed morphology and mineral composition.
Results: We show for the first time the external and internal structure of the seeds of Gynandropsis gynandra and
measured eight mineral elements, including carbon (C), oxygen (O), magnesium (Mg), aluminium (Al), phosphorus
(P), sulphur (S), potassium (K) and calcium (Ca). The accessions differed significantly (p < 0.001) with respect to seed
size (area, perimeter, length, width), 10-seed weight, mean germination time and germination percentage. The
hierarchical cluster analysis based on fourteen variables grouped the accessions into three distinct clusters, partially
dependent on their geographical origin. Asian accessions exhibited smaller seeds and recorded higher values in
terms of germination percentage. West African accessions had bigger seeds but with lower germination
percentage. Variation in minerals such as potassium, carbon, and calcium content showed different patterns
according to geographical origins.
Conclusion: Smaller seeds in G. gynandra exhibited better germination capacity. The Asian germplasm is a
potential source of cultivars with a higher germination percentage for improving seed quality in the species.