Seeds of the Panamanian shrub, Hybanthus prunifolius (Schult.) Schulze (Violaceae) are dispersed at different times in different years ((March to June) and are exposed to the irregular rainfall of the dry season in some years. Fluctuations in soil moisture in the dry season represent suboptimal conditions for germination and seedling survival. There are no mechanisms to prevent germination prior to the arrival of consistent rains in the wet season. Among three natural cohorts of seeds followed in two years, the cohort experiencing the longest time from sowing to consistent rains had the highest germination, but it also had the longest time lag from sowing to, beginning of germination, longest germination period, and lowest survival of seedlings 3 months after sowing. Seeds were also induced experimentally to germinate under 14 different moisture patterns. The patterns encompassed 1) varying lengths of moisture before a dry period, 2) inconsistent moisture, and 3) varying lengths of dryness prior to any moisture. Mortality of seeds by fungal infection occurred if the wet period was delayed. But germination was less affected by fluctuations than was seedling survival. Length of the first wet period and frequency of occurrence of the wet period both affected germination levels. Survival and development of seedlings was influenced by the number of days exposed to dry conditions and by the stage of development at the beginning of the dry period. Young seedlings suffered attrition due to drought stress, and older seedlings died from fungal attack. Results from field and experimental sowing of seeds both indicate that this perennial species has minimal defense against germination when conditions are suboptimal for seedling survival. Undoubtedly there is more recruitment in some years than in others.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics