Germination characteristics of Rhinanthus minor influence field emergence, competitiveness and potential use in restoration projects

M. Marin* (Corresponding Author), G. Laverack, S. Matthews, A. A. Powell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The facultative root hemi‐parasite Rhinanthus minor is often used in grassland habitat restoration projects to regulate ecosystem structure and function. Its impact on community productivity and diversity as a function of resource supply, sward composition and management has been widely investigated. However, there is a lack of information about the possible influence of seed quality on the efficacy of the hemi‐parasite.
Ten seed lots from commercial sources were sown in the field and their germination characteristics investigated in the laboratory. Seeds from four lots were also germinated and sown in pots alongside plants of two host species, Lotus corniculatus and Holcus lanatus. Plant establishment, height and flowering density were evaluated for the hemi‐parasite, while plant biomass was measured for both R. minor and its host.
Two aspects of seed quality influenced the field emergence of seed lots of R. minor, the radicle emergence (%) and the length of the lag period from the beginning of imbibition to germination (mean germination time), which indicates seed vigour. A longer lag period (lower vigour) was associated with higher levels of seedling mortality and lower plant vigour, in terms of plant height and biomass accumulation and was also reflected in the parasitic impact of the seed lots.
Seed quality, specifically germination and vigour, can influence the establishment, survival, subsequent plant productivity and parasitic impact of R. minor in vegetation restoration projects. Seed quality is discussed as a key factor to consider when predicting the impact of the hemi‐parasite on community productivity and diversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-479
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Biology
Issue number3
Early online date8 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

European Union's Seventh Framework Programme. Grant Numbers: FP7/2007‐2013, 607785


  • hemi-parasite
  • Holcus lanatus
  • lotus corniculatus
  • mean germination time
  • radicle emergence
  • seed quality
  • seed vigour


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