Seed dormancy of the threatened Spanish daffodil Narcissus yepesii

Can the seed dormancy class of Narcissus yepesii explain the different dormancy levels seen in two closely related phylogenetic congeners?

Seed germination is recognised as a crucial phase of a plant’s life that is strongly dependent on environmental cues that break seed dormancy. As a result, seed germination in nature is often restricted to particular locations, which provide appropriate environmental requirements. The dormancy class of seeds can influence both population and species-level processes such as colonisation, adaptation, speciation and extinction.

Morphophysiological dormancy (MPD) is the most difficult dormancy class to overcome. MPD occurs when seeds with underdeveloped embryos have physiological components preventing germination. These seeds therefore require dormancy-breaking treatments (such as hot or cold exposure) as well as a period of time to develop fully grown embryos. Until now there have been no studies investigating whether a dormancy gradient exists between levels of morphophysiological dormancy across environmental gradients or genetic diversity.

Flowers and embryo growth in seeds of N. yepesii. Image credit: Copete et al.

In their new study published in AoBP, Copete et al. aimed to determine the class of seed dormancy of the threatened daffodil species Narcissus yepesii. This was then used to explore links between different dormancy levels previously characterised in two closely related phylogenetic congeners also endemic to Spain, N. alcaracensis and N. longispathus. These species were found to exhibit distinct levels of MPD: intermediate and non-deep complex, respectively.

The results of Copete et al. demonstrate a clinal variation through the coexistence of intermediate and non-deep complex MPD in N. yepesii (21% and 74%, respectively), which occupies a middle geographical position between the other two taxa. This is the first study showing a gradient in the evolution between levels of MPD. The authors conclude by stating that seed dormancy evolution from one level of MPD to another level of MPD can be a key factor determining the course of plant trait evolution in species with underdeveloped embryos.

William Salter

William (Tam) Salter is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney. He has a bachelor degree in Ecological Science (Hons) from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in plant ecophysiology from the University of Sydney. Tam is interested in the identification and elucidation of plant traits that could be useful for ecosystem resilience and future food security under global environmental change. He is also very interested in effective scientific communication.

Read this in your language

The Week in Botany

On Monday mornings we send out a newsletter of the links that have been catching the attention of our readers on Twitter and beyond. You can sign up to receive it below.

@BotanyOne on Mastodon

Loading Mastodon feed...