Journal Article

Ecotypic variation of summer dormancy relaxation associated with rainfall gradient in the geophytic grass <i>Poa bulbosa</i>

Micha Ofir and Jaime Kigel

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 105, issue 4, pages 617-625
Published in print April 2010 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online February 2010 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Ecotypic variation of summer dormancy relaxation associated with rainfall gradient in the geophytic grass Poa bulbosa

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

Summer dormancy is an adaptive trait in geophytes inhabiting regions with a Mediterranean climate, allowing their survival through the hot and dry summers. Summer dormancy in Poa bulbosa is induced by increasing day-length and temperature and decreasing water availability during spring. Populations from arid habitats became dormant earlier than those from mesic habitats. Relaxation of dormancy was promoted by the hot, dry summer conditions. Here we test the hypothesis that dormancy relaxation is also delayed in ecotypes of P. bulbosa inhabiting arid regions, as a cautious strategy related to the greater unpredictability of autumn rains associated with decreasing precipitation.


Ecotypes collected across a precipitation gradient (100–1200 mm year−1) in the Mediterranean climate region were grown under similar conditions in a net-house in Israel. Differences among ecotypes in dormancy induction and dormancy relaxation were determined by measuring time to dormancy onset in spring, and time to sprouting after the first effective rain in autumn. Seasonal and ecotype variation in dormancy relaxation were assessed by measuring time to sprouting initiation, rate of sprouting and maximal sprouting of resting dry bulbs sampled in the net-house during late spring, and mid- and late summer, and planted in a wet substrate at temperatures promoting (10 °C) or limiting (20 °C) sprouting.

Key Results

Earlier dormancy in the spring and delayed sprouting in autumn were correlated with decreasing mean annual rainfall at the site of ecotype origin. Seasonal and ecotype differences in dormancy relaxation were expressed in bulbs planted at 20 °C. During the summer, time to sprouting decreased while rate of sprouting and maximal sprouting increased, indicating dormancy relaxation. Ecotypes from more arid sites across the rainfall gradient showed delayed onset of sprouting and lower maximal sprouting, but did not differ in rate of sprouting. Planting at 10 °C promoted sprouting and cancelled differences among ecotypes in dormancy relaxation.


Both the induction and the relaxation of summer dormancy in P. bulbosa are correlated with mean annual precipitation at the site of population origin. Ecotypes from arid habitats have earlier dormancy induction and delayed dormancy relaxation, compared with those from mesic habitats.

Keywords: Poa bulbosa; summer dormancy relaxation; ecotypic variation; rainfall gradient; geophytic grass

Journal Article.  5431 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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