Seed Science Research

Research Article

The effect of light and number of diurnal temperature fluctuations on germination of Phragmites australis

B. Ekstama1 c1 p1, R. Johannessona2 and P. Milberga2

a1 Department of Ecology, Limnology, University of Lund, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden

a2 Department of Biology, Linköping University, SE-581 83 Linköping, Sweden


Seed germination of the wetland emergent perennial Phragmites australis is stimulated by diurnally fluctuating temperatures. A germination experiment in darkness and light at different temperature regimes showed that P. australis germinated as well in darkness as in light over most of the temperature regimes tested. The germination requirements could partly explain why this species, despite a large annual production of small seeds, does not accumulate a persistent soil seed bank. A second experiment examined the effect of one to four diurnal temperature cycles with amplitude of fluctuations ranging from 0 to 30°C; diurnal mean temperature of 15°C. Germination in the absence of fluctuations was low, and logistic model estimates showed a positive effect of number of temperature cycles which was strongly influenced by amplitude size. For seeds that have fallen on moist ground during the winter, these laboratory results predict that a few large diurnal temperature fluctuations could be sufficient for onset of germination in the subsequently warmer spring period. Seeds that are located under water, however, are predicted to remain ungerminated until the water level falls. Hence, we suggest that the requirement for fluctuating temperature, in addition to being a sensor for ‘exposed’ seed sites, is also effectively acting as a germination timing mechanism.

(Received November 14 1997)

(Accepted November 24 1998)


c1 *Correspondence

p1 Department of Natural Sciences, University of Kalmar, PO Box 905, SE-391 29 Kalmar, Sweden Fax: 46 (0)480 446262 Email: