The University of Arizona

Field stratification of antelope bitterbrush seeds.

J.A. Young, J.R. Wight, J.E. Mowbray


The germination ecology of antelope bitterbrush [Purshia tridentata (Pursh) Nutt.] seed has probably been investigated more than any other range shrub. Seeds of this valuable browse species are known to require moist prechilling before they will germinate. Our purpose was to investigate the nature of this dormancy breaking by placing packages (2 X 2-mm mesh screen) of seeds on the surface and buried in the seedbed at several locations in Idaho and Nevada and to recover the seeds monthly through the winter. The seeds were categorized based on their being: (a) capable of germinating; (b) dormant; or (c) dead at each recovery. The seedbeds of the 2 sites in Nevada, during 2 years of drought, were not sufficiently wet to bring large amounts of the antelope bitterbrush seeds out of dormancy. The seeds did not rot in the field, and being protected from predation, they remained dormant in the seedbed. The highest elevation site in Idaho had as high as 80% of the seeds lose dormancy. If seedbed microenvironmental conditions were satisfactory, the inherent seed dormancy was lost by midwinter. Snow cover, as it influences seedbed moisture and temperatures, apparently is an important factor in the prechilling of antelope bitterbrush seeds.


dormancy breaking;soil temperature;microenvironments;Purshia tridentata;rain;Idaho;seed germination;Nevada

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