Background and Aims
The water gap is an important morphoanatomical structure in seeds with physical dormancy (PY). It is an environmental signal detector for dormancy break and the route of water into the non-dormant seed. The Convolvulaceae, which consists of subfamilies Convolvuloideae (11 tribes) and Humbertoideae (one tribe, monotypic Humberteae), is the only family in the asterid clade known to produce seeds with PY. The primary aim of this study was to compare the morphoanatomical characteristics of the water gap in seeds of species in the 11 tribes of the Convolvuloideae and to use this information, and that on seed dormancy and storage behaviour, to construct a phylogenetic tree of seed dormancy for the subfamily.
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to define morphological changes in the hilum area during dormancy break; hand and vibratome sections were taken to describe the anatomy of the water gap, hilum and seed coat; and dye tracking was used to identify the initial route of water entry into the non-dormant seed. Results were compared with a recent cladogram of the family.
Species in nine tribes have (a) layer(s) of palisade cells in the seed coat, a water gap and orthodox storage behaviour. Erycibe (Erycibeae) and Maripa (Maripeae) do not have a palisade layer in the seed coat or a water gap, and are recalcitrant. The hilar fissure is the water gap in relatively basal Cuscuteae, and bulges adjacent to the micropyle serve as the water gap in the Convolvuloideae, Dicranostyloideae (except Maripeae) and the Cardiochlamyeae clades. Seeds from the Convolvuloideae have morphologically prominent bulges demarcated by cell shape in the sclereid layer, whereas the Dicranostyloideae and Cardiochlamyeae have non-prominent bulges demarcated by the number of sub-cell layers. The anatomy and morphology of the hilar pad follow the same pattern.
PY in the subfamily Convolvuloideae probably evolved in the aseasonal tropics from an ancestor with recalcitrant non-dormant seeds, and it may have arisen as Convolvulaceae radiated to occupy the seasonal tropics. Combinational dormancy may have developed in seeds of some Cuscuta spp. as this genus moved into temperate habitats.