Although seed dormancy of temperate legumes is well understood, less is known about it in species that grow in subalpine/alpine areas. This study investigated dormancy and germination of four Vicia species from the Tibetan Plateau. Fresh seeds of V. sativa were permeable to water, whereas those of V. angustifolia, V. amoena and V. unijuga had physical dormancy (PY). One year of dry storage increased the proportion of impermeable seeds in V. angustifolia, but showed no effect on seed coat permeability in V. amoena or V. unijuga. Seeds of all four species also had non-deep physiological dormancy (PD), which was especially apparent in the two annuals at a high germination temperature (20°C). After 1 year of storage, PD had been lost. The hydrotime model showed that fresh seeds obtained a significantly higher median water potential [Ψb(50)] than stored seeds, implying that PD prevents germination in winter for seeds dispersed without PY when water availability is limited. After 6 months on the soil surface in the field, a high proportion of permeable seeds remained ungerminated, further suggesting that PD plays a key role in preventing germination after dispersal. Addition of fluridone, an inhibitor of abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis, evened-out the differences in germination between fresh and stored seeds, which points to the key role of ABA biosynthesis in maintaining dormancy. Further, fresh seeds were more sensitive to exogenous ABA than stored seeds, indicating that storage decreased embryo sensitivity to ABA. On the other hand, the gibberellic acid GA3 increased germination rate, which implies that embryo sensitivity to GA is also involved in seed dormancy regulation. This study showed that PY, PD or their combination (PY+PD) plays a key role in timing germination after dispersal, and that different intensities of dormancy occur among these four Vicia species from the Tibetan Plateau.