Seed germination ecology of Polymnia canadensis (Asteraceae), a monocarpic species of the North American Temperate Deciduous Forest

Martin H. Bender, Jerry M. Baskin, Carol C. Baskin

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10 Scopus citations


The seed germination of Polymnia canadensis was studied in relation to its wide variation in life history and its ecology as a mostly facultative biennial, a life cycle type that is rare in stable forest habitats in eastern North America. The seed dormancy and germination characteristics of P. canadensis were like some other herbaceous woodland species of diverse life cycle types. That is, its seeds have physiological dormancy, and they (1) germinated to higher percentages after cold stratification, (2) germinated better in light than in darkness and (3) formed a persistent soil seed bank. Since its seed dormancy and germination characteristics are not uncommon and are not particularly associated with any one life cycle type in woodlands, those properties do not contribute to the rarity of its life cycle type in deciduous forests. These properties are also found in many facultative biennials of open, disturbed habitats and in other Asteraceae of various life cycle types. In addition, the germination phenology of P. canadensis differed between mesic and dry field sites in central Kentucky. At the dry sites, most of the yearly germination occurred in fall, while at the mesic sites most germination occurred in the spring due to being inhibited during fall. A reciprocal seed transplant experiment conducted in two different years demonstrated that the cause of this difference was environmental and that there was no source x site interaction; i.e., no difference between sources in phenotypic plasticity for germination phenology. Absence of genetic effects was also shown by no consistent pattern in the few differences between seed sources in seed incubation laboratory experiments and in a germination phenology experiment in glasshouse flats. Exposure of seeds to a high ratio of far-red/red light prior to or during incubation did not inhibit germination. Neither did changes in leaf litter thickness qualitatively alter germination phenology in field quadrats or in glasshouse flats. Thus, germination in fall at mesic sites was inhibited by other unknown factor(s), perhaps interacting with the effects of closed tree canopy and/or thick leaf litter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-253
Number of pages33
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003


  • Cold stratification
  • Germination phenology
  • Persistent soil seed bank
  • Reciprocal transplant experiment
  • Seed dormancy
  • Seed germination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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