Effects of reduced winter duration on seed dormancy and germination in six populations of the alpine herb Aciphyllya glacialis (Apiaceae)

G. L. Hoyle, H. Cordiner, R. B. Good, A. B. Nicotra*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    24 Citations (Scopus)


    The life stages of seed germination and seedling establishment play a vital role in maintaining plant populations and determining range dynamics of species. Thus, it is not surprising that specific germination requirements and dormancy mechanisms have evolved in all major angiosperm clades. In a rapidly changing climate, we face growing pressure to manage, conserve and restore native plant species and communities. To achieve these aims, we require solid knowledge of whether and how seed germination requirements and dormancy status vary between different populations of a given species and how germination strategies may be affected by warming climatic conditions. We assessed the effect of decreasing durations of cold stratification (i.e. conditions representing a shortened winter as predicted under climate change) on germination and dormancy of the alpine herb Aciphylla glacialis. Our results confirmed previous research showing that A. glacialis seeds possess physiological dormancy that can be alleviated by cold stratification. In addition, the results demonstrated that A. glacialis seeds have underdeveloped embryos at dispersal; these grow to germinable size following 4-9 weeks at both constant 5°C and 10-5°C (day-night) temperatures. We conclude that A. glacialis exhibits morphophysiological dormancy. Furthermore, we found that the final percentage germination and dormancy status varied significantly among natural populations and that this variation did not correlate with elevation at the site of seed origin. Seeds germinated following 6-8 weeks of cold stratification, and seedlings showed no detrimental effects as a result of shorter stratification periods. Together, these results suggest that reduced duration of winter is unlikely to have direct negative impacts on germination or early seedling growth in A. glacialis. The causes and implications of the population variation in germination traits are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalConservation Physiology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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