A combined physical and physiological dormancy controls seasonal seedling emergence of Geranium robertianum


  • Editor
    T. Elzenga

F. Vandelook, Laboratory of Plant Ecology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg, 31 box 2435, B-3001 Leuven, Belgium.
E-mail: filip.vandelook@bio.kuleuven.be


Temperate forest herbs with seeds exhibiting both a physical and a physiological dormancy mechanism are rare, and knowledge on the factors regulating germination of these species is fragmentary. The biennial Geranium robertianum L. grows mainly in temperate woodlands, but can also be found in exposed habitats. Seedlings of G. robertianum are known to emerge from spring until autumn, but little is known about the environmental factors regulating germination. In this study, phenology of seedling emergence and of physical dormancy loss was examined for seeds buried at shaded or sunny exposed locations. The role of temperature in regulating dormancy and germination was analysed by incubating seeds in temperature sequences simulating temperatures that seeds experience in nature. The results indicate that most seeds of G. robertianum buried in sunny conditions germinate immediately after physical dormancy loss in summer. Seeds buried in shaded conditions also lose physical dormancy mainly during summer, but remain physiologically dormant and do not germinate until late winter or early spring. Besides physical dormancy, seeds of G. robertianum also initially have a high level of physiological dormancy, which is reduced during dry storage. Physiological dormancy is reduced through chilling in winter, thus enabling the seeds to germinate at low temperatures. We conclude that a complex combination of physical and physiological dormancy ensures that G. robertianum seeds germinate in summer at exposed sites and in early spring at shaded sites.