Germination Traits in the Threatened Southeastern Grassland Endemic, Marshallia mohrii (Asteraceae)


Noah D. Dell

Additional Authors:

Quinn G. Long, Matthew A. Albrecht


Aug – 2019


grasslands, ketona glades, rare plant, seed dormancy, soil temperatures


Marshallia mohrii (Asteraceae) is a perennial forb endemic to grasslands in the southeastern United States. Despite having been listed as federally threatened for three decades, little is known about its biology and life history. In this study, we examined the role of light, temperature, seed age, and cold stratification on seed dormancy break and germination in M. mohrii. We also quantified soil temperatures in a Ketona glade population of M. mohrii to infer dormancy breaking and germination phenologies under natural conditions. Relatively high proportions (>65%) of cold stratified seeds germinated across a range of temperature regimes in both light and darkness, whereas nonstratified seeds only germinated to high proportions in light at high temperatures. Germination proportions of laboratory stored seeds were slightly greater than freshly matured seeds, but remained much lower than those of cold stratified seeds. According to laboratory experiments, both autumn and spring germination phenologies are possible depending on the temperature and light conditions seeds experience after dispersal. Seeds of M. mohrii exhibited type 3 non-deep conditional physiological dormancy, which has been found in other members of Asteraceae from temperate grasslands. Overall, the germination niche of M. mohrii is defined by conditional seed dormancy, reduced dormancy levels following cold stratification, dark germination after dormancy loss, seasonal germination cueing, and seed traits consistent with short-term persistence in soil. Results from our study are useful for future conservation and recovery actions with M. mohrii and represent the first known published report of germination traits in this genus, which contains several other rare and range-restricted species.