Cryptic seed heteromorphism in Packera tomentosa (Asteraceae): differences in mass and germination



Seed mass variation and heteromorphism may afford plant species differential germination behavior and ultimately seedling success, particularly in disturbed habitats. We asked whether such variation occurs in Packera tomentosa (Michx.) C. Jeffrey (Asteraceae), a clonal species of the southeastern USA. Seed mass was compared within and among genetic individuals differentiated using amplified fragment length polymorphisms. We compared central and peripheral seeds produced by disc and ray florets, respectively, for their morphology, mass, and germination behavior, including response to water availability, aging, and cold stratification. Seed mass was highly variable both within and among individuals and influenced germination behavior. We found cryptic seed heteromorphism in P. tomentosa. Central and peripheral seeds had similar morphologies but dissimilar mass and biomass allocation. We used failure time analysis to detect different germination behavior. Central seeds were heavier, contained larger embryos, and germinated faster and at a higher proportion in most germination studies. Highly variable mass and heteromorphism of seeds may allow persistence of P. tomentosa in its disturbed habitats. Based on our results, some future studies of Asteraceae species with disc and ray florets may need to account for possible differences between seed types, even when morphological differences are not apparent. Evaluation of individual seed mass and maternal differences in germination studies may assist in the detection of cryptic seed heteromorphism, a phenomenon thought to be common, yet rarely documented.