Dormancy and germination of the trimorphic achenes of a cold desert annual: Spreading the risk over time

Juanjuan Lu, Wenjing Dong, Dunyan Tan, Carol C. Baskin, Jerry M. Baskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Many studies have been done on the relationship between variation in morphology, dispersal ability and degree of dormancy of heterocarpic species with dimorphic diaspores. However, there are far fewer such studies on species that produce trimorphic diaspores. Our aim was to compare dormancy and germination of achenes from peripheral, intermediate and central positions in the capitulum of the diaspore-trimorphic cold desert annual Asteraceae species Heteracia szovitsii, an important component of plant communities in the cold deserts of NW China. Dormancy breaking/germination responses of the three achene morphs and of seeds isolated from the pericarp were tested in the laboratory using standard procedures, and seedling emergence phenology of the achene morphs was monitored under natural cold desert temperature conditions in an experimental garden with and without supplemental watering. Depth of dormancy of the three achene morphs was peripheral > intermediate > central. Seedlings from the three morphs emerged in spring and in autumn. Cumulative seedling emergence percentage from achenes during 47 months of burial was central > intermediate > peripheral. Central achene morphs emerged over a period of ∼12 months after sowing, while intermediate and peripheral achene morphs did so for ∼40 and 47 months, respectively. Thus, H. szovitsii exhibits a temporal dispersal strategy. No viable central or intermediate achene morphs were present after 16 and 40 months, respectively, but ∼60 % of the non-emerged peripheral achenes morphs were viable after 47 months. Based on our results on diaspore dormancy and those of a previous study of diaspore spatial dispersal of H. szovitsii, we conclude that this species has a high-intermediate-low risk diaspore dispersal/dormancy strategy that likely increases the chances for population persistence over time and space.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberplaa056
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.


  • Asteraceae
  • diaspore heteromorphism
  • germination phenology
  • high risk/low risk dispersal-dormancy strategy
  • physiological dormancy
  • temporal dispersal
  • unpredictable-precipitation environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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