Ecophysiological aspects of seed germination were investigated in four Mediterranean geophytes of the genus Muscari (Liliaceae): M. comosum (tassel hyacinth), M. neglectum (common grape hyacinth), M. commutatum and M. weissii. Experiments were performed at constant temperatures in the dark and under temperature and light conditions simulating those prevailing in nature during November–January, i.e. well into the rainy season of the Mediterranean climate. In all species, no primary dormancy was revealed, and germination occurred in a rather narrow range of cool temperatures (optimum at 10 or 15°C) and at a remarkably slow rate; both germination characteristics seem to be associated with autumn/winter seed germination and seedling establishment. Such a postulated strategy is ecologically advantageous within an unpredictable rainfall regime, known to prevail during the start of the rainy period of the Mediterranean climate. This strategy may also explain the spread of germination of M. comosum seeds over two consecutive years, observed by Theophrastus. Far-red light, simulating light conditions under a dense canopy, resulted in only a slight delay of germination compared to dark controls. Diurnal white light, qualitatively simulating natural daylight, caused a significant decrease of the germination rate in all four species studied. Moreover, white light was found to suppress considerably final seed germination (photoinhibition) in M. weissii and M. neglectum; in the latter species, prolonged imbibition under white light also led to the induction of secondary dormancy.