Co-adaptation of seed dormancy and flowering time in the arable weed Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherds purse)

Peter E. Toorop*, Rafael Campos Cuerva, Graham S. Begg, Bruna Locardi, Geoff R. Squire, Pietro P.M. Iannetta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims The duration of the plant life cycle is an important attribute that determines fitness and coexistence of weeds in arable fields. It depends on the timing of two key life-history traits: time from seed dispersal to germination and time from germination to flowering. These traits are components of the time to reproduction. Dormancy results in reduced and delayed germination, thus increasing time to reproduction. Genotypes in the arable seedbank predominantly have short time to flowering. Synergy between reduced seed dormancy and reduced flowering time would create stronger contrasts between genotypes, offering greater adaptation in-field. Therefore, we studied differences in seed dormancy between in-field flowering time genotypes of shepherds purse. Methods Genotypes with early, intermediate or late flowering time were grown in a glasshouse to provide seed stock for germination tests. Secondary dormancy was assessed by comparing germination before and after dark-incubation. Dormancy was characterized separately for seed myxospermy heteromorphs, observed in each genotype. Seed carbon and nitrogen content and seed mass were determined as indicators of seed filling and resource partitioning associated with dormancy. Key Results Although no differences were observed in primary dormancy, secondary dormancy was weaker among the seeds of early-flowering genotypes. On average, myxospermous seeds showed stronger secondary dormancy than non-myxospermous seeds in all genotypes. Seed filling was similar between the genotypes, but nitrogen partitioning was higher in early-flowering genotypes and in non-myxospermous seeds. Conclusions In shepherds purse, early flowering and reduced seed dormancy coincide and appear to be linked. The seed heteromorphism contributes to variation in dormancy. Three functional groups of seed dormancy were identified, varying in dormancy depth and nitrate response. One of these groups (FG-III) was distinct for early-flowering genotypes. The weaker secondary dormancy of early-flowering genotypes confers a selective advantage in arable fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-489
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Capsella bursa-pastoris
  • Co-adaptation
  • flowering time
  • light
  • mucilage
  • myxospermy
  • nitrate
  • primary dormancy
  • secondary dormancy
  • seed heteromorphism
  • seedbank
  • shepherds purse
  • weed


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