Influence of heat on seed germination of seven Mediterranean Leguminosae species

Research paper by José M. Herranz, Pablo Ferrandis, Juan J. Martínez-Sánchez

Indexed on: 01 May '98Published on: 01 May '98Published in: Plant Ecology


The influence of high temperatures (dry heat and hot water) on germination of seven Mediterranean Leguminosae species typical of fire-prone ecosystems in southern Spain is analyzed, in order to know the response of seeds to wildfires and the possible implications in their regeneration after this disturbance. Seeds were heated to a range of temperatures (50 °–150 °C) and exposure times (1–60 min) similar to those registered in the upper soil layers during wildfires. Germination tests were carried out in plastic Petri dishes over 60 days. In general, the degree of seed germination promotion by dry heat treatments showed a wide interspecific variation, although the final germination level was increased in all the studied species except for Scorpiurus muricatus. The thermal pretreatment of 50 °C, however, was not effective for germination in any species, and rising the temperature to 70 °C only slightly enhanced the germination in Cytisus patens. The preheatings of 90 °C (5 and 10 min), 120 °C (5 and 10 min), and 150 °C (1 min) were the most effective in promoting seed germination. Hot water (100 °C) scarification also increased the final germination level in all cases, with the exception of C. patens. The germination rates after preheating were much lower than in mechanically scarified seeds and closely resembled those of the untreated seeds, except for C. reverchonii, whose seed germination rate decreased with heat. The response of species to heat shock had no clear relationship with life trait or with the specific post-fire regeneration strategy (obligate seeder or facultative resprouter). Those species coexisting in the same habitats had different heat optimal requirements for seed germination, an strategy suggested by some authors as minimizing interspecific competition in the secondary succession started after fire.