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Viability and dormancy of the Clematis vitalba aerial seed bank

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Jarvis-Lowry, B; Harrington, KC; Ghanizadeh, H; Robertson, AW

NA

2024

PLANT BIOLOGY

26

457-466

Old man's beard (Clematis vitalba L.) is a liana species that has become invasive in many areas of its introduced range. Seeds are produced in abundance and are both physiologically and morphologically dormant upon maturity. To understand the importance of seeds to its invasiveness, changes in viability and dormancy of the aerial seed bank were tracked throughout the after-ripening period and during storage. Seeds collected every second month for 2 years were subjected to germination tests. Other seeds stored in outdoor ambient conditions or in a dry, chilled state were dissected before, during, and after imbibition, as well as during incubation, to measure embryo size. Less than 72% of seeds on the mother plant were viable. Viable seeds remained completely morpho-physiologically dormant throughout autumn, even when treated with nitrate. Physiological dormancy declined in response to seasonal changes, yet morphological dormancy did not change until seeds had been exposed to appropriate germination conditions for several days. Fully dormant autumn seeds decayed at higher rates during incubation than partially or fully after-ripened seeds, which were also more germinable and less dormant. Furthermore, seeds incubated in complete darkness were more likely to decay or remain dormant than those exposed to light. This study demonstrates that fewer than three-quarters of seeds produced are viable and further decay occurs after dispersal, yet total fertility is still very high, with enormous propagule pressure from seeds alone. Viable seeds are protected with two forms of dormancy; morphological dormancy requires additional germination cues in order to break after seasonal changes break physiological dormancy.

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