Responses of Primula vulgaris to light quality in the maternal and germination environments

M. Marin* (Corresponding Author), C. Blandino, G. Laverack, P. Toorop, A.A. Powell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


In the model species Arabidopsis thaliana phytochromes mediate dormancy and germination responses to seasonal cues experienced during seed maturation on the maternal plants. However, the effect of the maternal light environment on seed germination in native wild species has not been well studied. This is particularly important given its practical application in the context of environmental restoration, when there can be marked changes in the canopy.
Plants of Primula vulgaris were grown in the field over two vegetative seasons under four shading treatments from low to high ratio of red to far‐red light (R:FR). Leaf and seed traits were assessed in response to the light treatments. The germination of seeds from these four maternal environments (pre‐dispersal) was investigated at seven light and five temperature treatments (post‐dispersal).
Thinner leaves, larger leaf area and greater chlorophyll content were found in plants growing in reduced R:FR. Shading in the maternal environment led to increased seed size and yield, although the conditions experienced by the maternal plants had no effect on seed germination. Seeds responded strongly to the cues experienced in their immediate germination environment. Germination was always enhanced under higher R:FR conditions.
The observed phenotypic trait variation plays a major role in the ability of P. vulgaris to grow in a wide range of light conditions. However, the increased germination capacity in response to a higher R:FR for all maternal environments suggests potential for seedling establishment under vegetative shade only in the presence of canopy gaps.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-448
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Biology
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007‐2013/ under REA grant agreement n°607785 (NASSTEC). We thank David Boldrin and Radomir Black‐Hrbac for valuable help with fieldwork and Stan Matthews for invaluable suggestions. We also thank Pietro Iannetta, Mark Young, Avril Britten and Hamlyn G. Jones from the James Hutton Institute in Dundee for their contribution to the experimental work, and John Adams for his assistance at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Wakehurst Place.


  • ecological restoration
  • maternal environmental effects
  • native seed production
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • R:FR
  • seed germination
  • seed quality


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