Temperature requirements for dormancy break and seed germination vary greatly among 14 wetland Carex species

Karin M. Kettenring, Susan M. Galatowitsch

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48 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-220
Number of pages12
JournalAquatic Botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank D. Horan, S. Olszewski, and S. Hensley for lab and field assistance; R. Weinand, J. Husveth, and J. Bohnen for assistance with seed collection; C. Baskin and A. Markhart for helpful comments on our manuscript; M. Emerick for growth chamber support; and B. Benney for statistical advice. This study was funded by Delta Waterfowl, a Garden Club of America Fellowship in Ecological Restoration, the University of Minnesota Experiment Station, the Dayton and Wilkie Fund for Natural History at the University of Minnesota's Bell Museum, and a graduate student grant from Applied Ecological Services to the first author.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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


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