Germination of the invasive legume Lupinus polyphyllus depends on cutting date and seed morphology.
In semi-natural grasslands, mowing leads to the dispersal of species that have viable seeds at the right time. For invasive plant species in grasslands, dispersal by mowing should be avoided, and information on the effect of cutting date on the germination of invasive species is needed. We investigated the germination of seeds of the invasive legume Lupinus polyphyllus Lindl. depending on the cutting date. We measured seed traits associated with successful germination that can be assessed by managers for an improved timing of control measures. To this end, we sampled seeds of L. polyphyllus on six cutting dates and analyzed the germination of these seeds in climate chambers and under ambient weather conditions. We collected information on seed morphology (color/size/hardseededness) for each cutting date to identify seed traits associated with successful germination. Observed germination patterns were highly asynchronous and differed between seeds cut at different dates. Seeds cut early, being green and soft, tended to germinate in autumn. Seeds cut late, being dark and hard, were more prone to germinate the following spring, after winter stratification. This allows the species to utilize germination niches throughout the year, thus indicating a bet-hedging strategy. Seed color and the percentage of hard seeds were good predictors of germination percentage, but not of mean germination time and synchrony. Managers should prevent the species producing black and hard seeds, while cutting plants carrying green and soft seeds is less problematic. Furthermore, germination patterns differed between climate chambers and the common garden, mainly because germination of dormant seeds was lower in climate chambers. More germination experiments under ambient weather conditions should be carried out, as they can give information on the germination dynamics of invasive species.