Background and Aims
Comparative studies of closely related taxa can increase understanding of adaptations and changes in seed dormancy and germination preferences in an evolutionary perspective. For such studies, a method to describe and compare the performance of taxa in a general way is needed. The germination ecology of four Papaver taxa was studied with the aim of describing and comparing their responses to different seasonal temperature regimes.
Germination of Papaver argemone, P. rhoeas, P. dubium ssp. dubium and P. dubium ssp. lecoqii was investigated in three different artificial climates over 2·5 years. Seeds were collected in southern Sweden, and samples from different populations were used as replicates of taxa.
Despite substantial intra-taxa variation, there were clear taxon-specific responses. Most germination occurred in the warmest climate. In general, the warmer the climate the more germination occurred in autumn instead of spring. Papaver argemone, phylogenetically most distant from the other taxa, was, in contrast to the others, restricted to germinating only at lower temperatures.
Seed dormancy and germination may be described by dormancy pattern, germination preferences and dormancy strength. The general dormancy pattern was a common feature for these taxa and therefore probably an evolutionary conservative character. Germination preferences varied between taxa, resulting in different temperature optima and intervals for germination, and dormancy strength was to some extent taxon-specific, but highly variable. The dormancy pattern explained how the taxa can perform as winter annuals in warmer climates, but mainly as summer annuals in colder climates. Hence, there is no need to interpret the within-taxon temporal differences in seedling emergence as local adaptations. In the field, an entire seed cohort will not germinate during a single season. Instead, emergence will be distributed over several seasons, regardless of local climate, weather and soil cultivation methods.