Ethylene as a possible cue for seed germination of Schoenoplectus hallii (Cyperaceae), a rare summer annual of occasionally flooded sites

Carol C. Baskin, Jerry M. Baskin, Edward W. Chester, Marian Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The purpose of our research was to determine why seeds of Schoenoplectus hallii germinate only in some wet years. Seeds mature in autumn, at which time they are dormant. Seeds come out of dormancy during winter, if buried in nonflooded, moist soil, but they remain dormant if buried in flooded soil. Nondormant seeds require flooding, light, and exposure to ethylene to germinate. One piece of apple in water (1/12 of an apple in 125 mL of water in a glass jar for a depth of 5 cm) or a l-μmol/L solution of ethephon elicited very similar (high) germination percentages and vigor of seedlings. Apple, which was shown to produce ethylene in the air space of the jar, was used in a series of experiments to better understand germination. Seeds germinated to 72% if apple was removed from the water after 1 d of incubation, and they germinated to 97% if seeds were washed and placed in fresh water after 3 d of exposure to apple. No seeds germinated in control with no apple. Seeds incubated in apple leachate for 5 d and then transferred to filter paper moistened with distilled water germinated to 90%. Minimum depth of flooding in apple leachate (no soil in jars) for optimum germination was ≥3 cm. Buried seeds of S. hallii exhibited an annual conditional dormancy/nondormancy cycle. Regardless of the month in which seeds were exhumed, they germinated to 59-100% in light in water with apple at daily alternating temperature regimes of 25°/15°, 30°/15°, and 35°/20°C, but germination at 20°/10°C (and to some extent at 15°/6°C) tended to peak in autumn to spring. Thus, seeds can germinate throughout the summer if flooded (ethylene production) and exposed to light. An ethylene cue for germination serves as a "flood-detecting" mechanism and may serve as an indirect signal that water is available for completion of the life cycle and competing species are absent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)620-627
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2003


  • Cyperaceae
  • Ethylene
  • Flooding requirement
  • Germination cue
  • Light requirement
  • Schoenoplectus hallii
  • Seed dormancy-breaking requirements
  • Seed germination requirements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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