Temperature Requirements for Dormancy Break and Seed Germination Vary Greatly among 14 Wetland Carex Species

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Aquatic Botany







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Cold stratification, Germination temperature, Glacial wetland, Prairie pothole region, Sedge, Seed dormancy, Seed germination ecology

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We evaluated dormancy loss in seeds of 14 Carex species (C. atherodes, C. brevior, C. comosa, C. cristatella, C. cryptolepis, C. granularis, C. hystericina, C. lacustris, C. pellita, C. scoparia, C. stipata, C. stricta, C. utriculata, C. vulpinoidea) under growing season and stratification conditions and determined the temperature requirements for germination. Seeds were germinated for 1 year at a diel temperature regime (5/1 °C, 14/1 °C, 22/8 °C, or 27/15 °C) or a seasonal regime (seeds moved among the four diel regimes to mimic seasonal temperatures). All species had conditionally dormant seeds at maturity. The optimal temperature for germination of most species was 27/15 °C. The 14 species were grouped by their seed viability, dormancy, and germination with a Seed Regeneration Index (SRI; range 0–1) using the results of this study and a previously published paper on stratification effects on Carex seed dormancy and germination. The eight species that had an SRI value >0.5 (C. brevior, C. comosa, C. cristatella, C. cryptolepis, C. hystericina, C. scoparia, C. stipata, C. vulpinoidea) had high seed viability (>60%) and required little to no stratification to germinate readily over a broad range of temperatures. The six species with an SRI value <0.5 (C. atherodes, C. granularis, C. lacustris, C. pellita, C. stricta, C. utriculata) generally had low seed viability (<50% and often <1%) and required stratification or particular temperatures (35/30 °C or 5/1 °C for C. stricta; 35/30 °C for C. utriculata; 27/15 °C for C. atherodes, C. lacustris, C. pellita; 5/1 °C for C. granularis) for germination ≥50%. These six species will require more attention from restoration practitioners to ensure that there are sufficient viable seeds to meet revegetation goals, that dormancy break is achieved, and that seeds are sown when temperatures are optimal for germination. The different seed germination syndromes that we found for these Carex species likely contribute to variable seed bank formation and emergence patterns, and species coexistence.


Originally published by Elsevier. Publisher's PDF and HTML fulltext available through remote link.
Note: Karin Kettenring was affiliated with the University of Minnesota at time of publication.