A classification system for seed dormancy

Jerry M. Baskina1  and Carol C. Baskina1a2

a1 Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, 40506-0225, USA

a2 Department of Agronomy, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, 40546-0091, USA


The proposal is made that seed scientists need an internationally acceptable hierarchical system of classification for seed dormancy. Further, we suggest that a modified version of the scheme of the Russian seed physiologist Marianna G. Nikolaeva be adopted. The modified system includes three hierarchical layers – class, level and type; thus, a class may contain levels and types, and a level may contain only types. The system includes five classes of dormancy: physiological dormancy (PD), morphological dormancy (MD), morphophysiological dormancy (MPD), physical dormancy (PY) and combinational dormancy (PY + PD). The most extensive classification schemes are for PD, which contains three levels and five types (in the non-deep level), and MPD, which contains eight levels but no types. PY is not subdivided at all but probably should be, for reasons given. Justifications are presented for not including mechanical dormancy or chemical dormancy in the modified scheme. PD (non-deep level) is the most common kind of dormancy, and occurs in gymnosperms (Coniferales, Gnetales) and in all major clades of angiosperms. Since, first, this is the class and level of dormancy in seeds of wild populations of Arabidopsis thaliana and, secondly, Type 1 (to which seeds of A. thaliana belong) is also common, and geographically and phylogenetically widespread, it seems that biochemical, molecular and genetic studies on seed dormancy in this model species might have rather broad application in explaining the basic mechanism(s) of physiological dormancy in seeds.

(Received June 30 2003)

(Accepted September 16 2003)


  • Arabidopsis thaliana ;
  • hierarchical classification system;
  • phylogeny;
  • seed dormancy;
  • seed plants