'Dust seeds' with undifferentiated embryos and their germination in mycoheterotrophic Monotropoideae (Ericaceae)

Jerry M. Baskin, Carol C. Baskin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


'Dust seeds' with an undifferentiated (organless) embryo are known to be produced by mycoheterotrophic species (MH) in nine families of angiosperms. However, aside from the numerous studies on seed germination of orchids, relatively little is known about germination in MH families. In the Ericaceae, some degree of mycoheterotrophy (full, partial or initial) and dust seeds with an undifferentiated embryo occur in all species in the three tribes of Monotropoideae, the only subfamily of Ericaceae with this combination of characters. In most species, the seed is <0.90 mm in the greatest dimension, the endosperm is absent (Pityopus) or consists of few to many (30-40) cells, and the embryo is minute, consisting of as few as two cells in Monotropa. Germination in Monotropoideae is monopolar, with only the radicular pole of the embryo participating in germination. Thus, germination polarity differs from that of the dust seeds of orchids in which only the plumular pole of the embryo (protocorm) participates in germination. The dust seeds in Monotropoideae require the presence of fungi, either direct contact with a fungus or the presence of a diffusible substance therefrom, to germinate (symbiotic germination). Recently, representatives of the four genera of tribe Pyroleae have been successfully germinated asymbiotically in vitro. We present a broad overview of dust-size seeds in angiosperms and conclude that they should be subdivided into at least two major categories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalSeed Science Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 24 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 The Author(s).


  • Monotropoideae
  • asymbiotic germination
  • dust seeds
  • symbiotic germination
  • undifferentiated (organless) embryo
  • unipolar germination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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