Are Seedlings from Small Seeds Always Inferior to Seedlings from Large Seeds? Effects of Seed Biomass on Seedling Growth in Pastinaca sativa L.

Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

New Phytologist


Previous field studies of recruitment in Pastinaca sativa L. indicate that more seedlings from small seeds than from large seeds survive short-term droughts. To explore this phenomenon, the effects of variation in seed biomass in Pastinaca sativa on embryo size and seedling characteristics 10, 20, 30 and 40 days after emergence were investigated. On the basis of most characteristics, seedlings from large seeds should be superior to seedlings from small seeds. Embryo length and cotyledon area were positively related to seed biomass, as were above ground biomass, total leaf area, and root biomass in all harvests. Total seedling biomass was positively related to seed biomass in the 10, 20, and 30 day harvests, but not the 40 day harvest. However, the ratio of maximum root length/total leaf area was negatively related to seed biomass in the 10 and 20 day harvests, suggesting that, under drought conditions, seedlings from small seeds may transpire less water than those from large seeds relative to their ability to reach water supplies. Although seedlings from larger seeds had greater root biomass, this may be of little advantage under drought conditions since approximately 90% of the root biomass is in the upper 10 cm of soil which dries out quickly. The advantage that seedlings from small seeds have under drought conditions is short-lived, lasting about 20 days in the glasshouse and an estimated 60-90 days in the field. This advantage is short-term because the relationship between seed biomass and resource allocation patterns changes during early seedling development.



Published Article/Book Citation

New Phytologist, 119:2 (1991) pp. 299-305.

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