Dynamics of the diaspore and germination stages of the life history of an annual diaspore-trimorphic species in a temperate salt desert

Zhaoren Wang, Jerry M. Baskin, Carol C. Baskin, Xuejun Yang, Guofang Liu, Zhenying Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Main conclusion: Individuals of the annual halophyte Atriplex centralasiatica produce three kinds of diaspores that differ in dispersal, dormancy/germination response and type of seed bank formed, which likely is a bet-hedging strategy in the rainfall-unpredictable environment on the semi-arid, saline Ordos Plateau in Inner Mongolia, China. Abstract: Seasonal fluctuations in environmental conditions provide germination cues for the establishment of seedlings at the right time and place to ensure plant survival and population regeneration. Diaspore heteromorphism is a phenomenon in which diaspores with stark qualitative differences in morphology and ecology are produced by the same maternal plant. Germination responses and dispersal times of the annual halophyte Atriplex centralasiatica were examined to determine the role of diaspore heteromorphism in its adaptation to salt desert conditions. A. centralasiatica is a tumbleweed that produces three types of diaspores that differ in morphology and ecophysiology. The relative potential dispersal ability and intensity of dormancy of the three diaspore types was type A (fan-shaped diaspores with yellow fruits) < type B (fan-shaped diaspores with black fruits) < type C (globular diaspores with black fruits). In the field, type A retained high germinability, but all of them were depleted from the (transient) soil seedbank in the first growing season. Types B and C cycled between dormancy and nondormancy, and 0 and > 90.0% remained in the soil seedbank 2 years after dispersal, respectively. The dormancy, dispersal and salt tolerance of type B diaspores were intermediate between those of A and C. Type A exhibited low dispersal–nondormancy, type B exhibited intermediate dispersal–intermediate dormancy and type C exhibited high dispersal ability–high dormancy. In the unpredictable salt desert habitat, the functional differences in germination and dispersal of the three diaspores act as a bet-hedging mechanism and ensure population establishment in different years by spreading germination over time and space.

Original languageEnglish
Article number87
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Atriplex centralasiatica
  • Bet-hedging strategy
  • Diaspore heteromorphism
  • Dispersal
  • Dormancy cycle
  • Seedbank

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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