The maternal environment can influence the intensity of seed dormancy and thus seasonal germination timing and post-germination life history traits. We tested the hypotheses that germination season influences phenotypic expression of post-germination life history traits in the cold desert annual Isatis violascens and that plants from autumn- and spring-germinating seeds produce different proportions of seeds with nondeep and intermediate physiological dormancy (PD). Seeds were sown in summer and flexibility in various life history traits determined for plants that germinated in autumn and in spring. A higher percentage of spring- than of autumn-germinating plants survived the seedling stage, and all surviving plants reproduced. Number of silicles increased with plant size (autumn- > spring-germinating plants), whereas percent dry mass allocated to reproduction was higher in spring- than in autumn-germinating plants. Autumn-germinating plants produced proportionally more seeds with intermediate PD than spring-germinating plants, while spring-germinating plants produced proportionally more seeds with nondeep PD than autumn-germinating plants. Flexibility throughout the life history and transgenerational plasticity in seed dormancy are adaptations of I. violascens to its desert habitat. Our study is the first to demonstrate that autumn- and spring-germinating plants in a species population differ in proportion of seeds produced with different levels of PD.

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Published in Scientific Reports, v. 6, article no. 25076, p. 1-11.

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This work was supported in part by the Major National Scientific Research Program of China (2014CB954202), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41361011, U1130301) and the Key Project of Chinese Ministry of Education (213038A).

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Supplementary Information: Supplementary Tables S1-S2