Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

The autumn effect: timing of physical dormancy break in seeds of two winter annual species of Geraniaceae by a stepwise process.

Abstract

Background and Aims: The involvement of two steps in the physical dormancy (PY)-breaking process previously has been demonstrated in seeds of Fabaceae and Convolvulaceae. Even thoughthere is a claim for a moisture-controlled stepwise PY-breaking in some species of Geraniaceae, no study has evaluated the role of temperature in the PY-breaking process in this family. The aim of this study was to determine whether a temperature-controlled stepwise PY-breaking process occurs in seeds of the winter annuals Geranium carolinianum and G. dissectum. Methods: Seeds of G. carolinianum and G. dissectum were stored under different temperature regimes to test the effect of storage temperature on PY-break. The role of temperature and moisture regimes in regulating PY-break was investigated by treatments simulating natural conditions. Greenhouse (non-heated) experiments on seed germination and burial experiments (outdoors) were carried out to determine the PY-breaking behaviour in the natural habitat. Key Results: Irrespective of moisture conditions, sensitivity to the PY-breaking step in seeds of G. carolinianum was induced at temperatures ≥20°C, and exposure to temperatures ≤20°C made the sensitive seeds permeable. Sensitivity of seeds increased with time. In G. dissectum, PY-break occurred at temperatures ≥20°C in a single step under constant wet or dry conditions and in two steps under alternate wet-dry conditions if seeds were initially kept wet. Conclusions: Timing of seed germination with the onset of autumn can be explained by PY-breaking processes involving (a) two temperature-dependent steps in G. carolinianum and (b) one or two moisture-dependent step(s) along with the inability to germinate under high temperatures in G. dissectum. Geraniaceae is the third of 18 families with PY in which a two-step PY-breaking process has been demonstrated.