Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 September 2008
Torilis japonica (Apiaceae) has a widespread distribution, extending from western Europe to eastern Asia. In Europe, it usually behaves as a spring-germinating biennial species. Ripe seeds of T. japonica have an underdeveloped embryo and can persist in the soil for several years. The aim of this research was to reveal the mechanisms regulating the seasonal emergence pattern of seedlings. Experiments in a natural environment were performed to study phenology of seedling emergence and embryo growth. Seasonal changes in the dormancy status of T. japonica seeds were examined by regularly exhuming buried seeds and incubating them in controlled conditions. The action of temperature and light in regulating dormancy, embryo growth and germination was studied in the laboratory. Results showed that seeds of T. japonica have non-deep, simple morphophysiological dormancy (MPD), whereby physiological dormancy is broken by moist chilling (5°C). Once MPD was broken, embryo growth and subsequent germination started in spring, when appropriate temperature and light conditions were present. Seeds buried at a depth where light could not reach them showed cyclic changes in their dormancy status; embryo growth in these seeds could not be initiated because of the lack of a light stimulus. As far as we know, this is the first extensive study of seasonal dormancy cycles in a spring-germinating species of the Apiaceae. T. japonica occurs in a temperate climate with cool winters and warm, moist summers. In this climate, spring is often the most favourable season for seedling establishment.