Identification and characterization of ten new water gaps in seeds and fruits with physical dormancy and classification of water-gap complexes

N. S. Gama-Arachchige, J. M. Baskin, R. L. Geneve, C. C. Baskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Background and AimsPhysical dormancy (PY) occurs in seeds or fruits of 18 angiosperm families and is caused by a water-impermeable palisade cell layer(s) in seed or fruit coats. Prior to germination, the seed or fruit coat of species with PY must become permeable in order to imbibe water. Breaking of PY involves formation of a small opening(s) (water gap) in a morpho-anatomically specialized area in seeds or fruits known as the water-gap complex. Twelve different water-gap regions in seven families have previously been characterized. However, the water-gap regions had not been characterized in Cucurbitaceae; clade Cladrastis of Fabaceae; subfamilies Bombacoideae, Brownlowioideae and Bythnerioideae of Malvaceae; Nelumbonaceae; subfamily Sapindoideae of Sapindaceae; Rhamnaceae; or Surianaceae. The primary aims of this study were to identify and describe the water gaps of these taxa and to classify all the known water-gap regions based on their morpho-anatomical features.MethodsPhysical dormancy in 15 species was broken by exposing seeds or fruits to wet or dry heat under laboratory conditions. Water-gap regions of fruits and seeds were identified and characterized by use of microtome sectioning, light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, dye tracking and blocking experiments.Key ResultsTen new water-gap regions were identified in seven different families, and two previously hypothesized regions were confirmed. Water-gap complexes consist of (1) an opening that forms after PY is broken; (2) a specialized structure that occludes the gap; and (3) associated specialized tissues. In some species, more than one opening is involved in the initial imbibition of water.ConclusionsBased on morpho-anatomical features, three basic water-gap complexes (Types-I,-II and-III) were identified in species with PY in 16 families. Depending on the number of openings involved in initial imbibition, the water-gap complexes were sub-divided into simple and compound. The proposed classification system enables understanding of the relationships between the water-gap complexes of taxonomically unrelated species with PY.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-84
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Chalaza
  • PY breaking
  • dye tracking
  • fruit coat
  • hilum
  • micropyle
  • palisade cells
  • physical dormancy
  • seed coat
  • water-gap complex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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