Diaspore dispersal ability and degree of dormancy in heteromorphic species of cold deserts of northwest China: A review

Jerry M. Baskin, Juan J. Lu, Carol C. Baskin, Dun Y. Tan, Lei Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The cold deserts of northern Xinjiang Province in northwest China are rich in diaspore-heteromorphic species, and diaspore biology has been compared in more heteromorphic species native to this biogeoclimatic region than for any other region worldwide. Our primary purpose was to compare the dispersal ability and degree of dormancy in heteromorphic diaspores in Xinjiang desert plants via a review of the Chinese and English literature. We located literature on 20 heteromorphic species native to these deserts. Fourteen of the species are chenopods (Amaranthaceae). All 20 species are heterodiasporous (dimorphic, 14; trimorphic, 4; polymorphic, 2) annuals, and none is amphicarphic sensu stricto. Thirteen of the species are heterocarpic, six heterospermic, one amphi-basicarpic and none heteroarthrocarpic. Diaspores of 19 of the species differ in seed dormancy/germination. Thirteen of the 14 species to which both diaspore dispersal ability and degree of dormancy could be assigned had at least one morph with high (or relatively high) dispersal ability and low degree of dormancy and at least one with low dispersal ability and high (or relatively high) degree of dormancy. Conceptual models of the dynamics of seed dormancy of the two morphs for each of three dimorphic species suggest the ecological significance of heterodiaspory in the cold desert annuals. However, the ecological significance of seed/fruit heteromorphism needs to be more thoroughly demonstrated via long-term field studies that compare the life history/demography of plants derived from different morphs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-99
Number of pages7
JournalPerspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 20 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC 31160063 , 31160093 , U1130301 ) and the Major National Scientific Research Program of China ( 2014CB954200-2 ).


  • Amphi-basicarpy
  • Central Asian cold deserts
  • Dispersal
  • Dormancy
  • Germinability
  • Heterocarpy
  • Heterodiaspory
  • Heterospermy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science


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