Seed characteristics and germination limitations in the highly invasive Fallopia japonica s.l. (Polygonaceae)
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- Engler, J., Abt, K. & Buhk, C. Ecol Res (2011) 26: 555. doi:10.1007/s11284-011-0813-8
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The species in the Japanese knotweed complex (Fallopia japonica s.l. and its hybrids) are among the most invasive plants on earth. Their expansion and reproduction in the introduced range have been mostly due to vegetative reproduction, but observations of low seedling numbers and hybridization processes exist. Knowledge of factors affecting germination characteristics is essential if the risk of sexual reproduction is to be assessed, and its impact on the ability of the species to spread and adapt to different environments. This study aims to examine the germination success of Fallopia japonica s.l. seeds of different ages, quality, and storage conditions. Irrespective of age and even after natural overwintering in the soil, seeds germinated quite well (48–79%). Ungerminated seeds collected in autumn of 2008 were characterized by a low weight/length ratio (W/L), low nutrient concentrations, and a greenish tepal coloration. These differences may be due to alternative male taxa participating in the pollination process. Spring collected seeds were subject to strong predation by birds. In contrast to the high germination observed under laboratory conditions, seed germination or early establishment in the field was inhibited and only a few seedlings were observed. Although the factors that inhibit the establishment of mature seeds in the field remain unknown, there is a clear risk that sexual reproduction could gain importance in the future as a result of changing environmental conditions or genetic adaptation. Not only would this facilitate expansive dispersal by wind, but it might also increase the potential for further adaptation of the species complex.