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Seed dormancy and germination in three Crocus ser. Verni species (Iridaceae): implications for evolution of dormancy within the genus

Seed dormancy and germination in three Crocus ser. Verni species (Iridaceae): implications for evolution of dormancy within the genus

Plant Biology 16(6): 1065-1074

The aim of this work was to examine whether seed ecophysiological traits in three closely related Crocus species were associated with ecological niche differentiation and species divergence. Seeds of the temperate tetraploid cytotype of Crocus neapolitanus, the sub-Mediterranean C. etruscus and the Mediterranean C. ilvensis were placed either on agar in the laboratory under different periods of simulated seasonal conditions or in nylon mesh bags buried outdoors to examine embryo growth, radicle and shoot emergence. In agreement with the phenology observed outdoors, in the laboratory embryos required a cool temperature (ca. 10 °C) to grow to full size (embryo length:seed length, E:S ratio ca. 0.75) but only after seeds received a warm stratification; radicle emergence then followed immediately (November). Shoot emergence is a temporally separated phase (March) that was promoted by cold stratification in C. neapolitanus while in the other two species this time lag was attributed to a slow continuous developmental process. These species have similar embryo growth and radicle phenology but differ in their degree of epicotyl dormancy, which is related to the length of local winter. Conclusions from laboratory experiments that only consider root emergence could be misleading; evaluating the phenology of both root and shoot emergence should be considered in order to demonstrate ecologically meaningful differences in germination behaviour and to develop effective propagation protocols. Although these taxa resulted from recent speciation processes, the outcomes suggest an early onset of adaptation to local ecological factors and that phylogeny may represent a significant constraint in the evolution and expression of seed traits in Crocus.

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Accession: 055686710

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PMID: 24533601

DOI: 10.1111/plb.12168

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