Seed anatomy and water uptake in relation to seed dormancy in Opuntia tomentosa (Cactaceae, Opuntioideae)
- ISSN: 03057364
- ISBN: 0305-7364 (Print)\r0305-7364 (Linking)
- DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcm001
- PubMed: 17298989
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: There is considerable confusion in the literature concerning impermeability of seeds with 'hard' seed coats, because the ability to take up (imbibe) water has not been tested in most of them. Seeds of Opuntia tomentosa were reported recently to have a water-impermeable seed coat sensu lato (i.e. physical dormancy), in combination with physiological dormancy. However, physical dormancy is not known to occur in Cactaceae. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine if seeds of O. tomentosa are water-permeable or water-impermeable, i.e. if they have physical dormancy. METHODS: The micromorphology of the seed coat and associated structures were characterized by SEM and light microscopy. Permeability of the seed-covering layers was assessed by an increase in mass of seeds on a wet substrate and by dye-tracking and uptake of tritiated water by intact versus scarified seeds. KEY RESULTS: A germination valve and a water channel are formed in the hilum-micropyle region during dehydration and ageing in seeds of O. tomentosa. The funicular envelope undoubtedly plays a role in germination of Opuntia seeds via restriction of water uptake and mechanical resistance to expansion of the embryo. However, seeds do not exhibit any of three features characteristic of those with physical dormancy. Thus, they do not have a water-impermeable layer(s) of palisade cells (macrosclereids) or a water gap sensu stricto and they imbibe water without the seed coat being disrupted. CONCLUSIONS: Although dormancy in seeds of this species can be broken by scarification, they have physiological dormancy only. Further, based on information in the literature, it is concluded that it is unlikely that any species of Opuntia has physical dormancy. This is the first integrative study of the anatomy, dynamics of water uptake and dormancy in seeds of Cactaceae subfamily Opuntioideae.