Double Dormancy In Seed – Does It Exist?

In a previous post, Seed Dormancy – Are Seeds Really Dormant?, I discussed Seed Dormancy and presented a new way for gardeners to look at seed development and seed dormancy. Today I would like continue the discussion by looking at double dormancy and ask the question, does it really exist?

If you plant some peony or trillium seed in the fall you won’t see any green growth until the second spring – if you’re lucky. This is routinely described as an example of double dormancy – the seed needs two cold periods before they germinate. The two stratification (cold) periods overcome two dormancies, hence the name, double dormancy.

But is this really true? Do seeds like peony and trillium have have double dormancy? Does any seed have a double dormancy?

double dormancy, Peony grown from seed, by Robert Pavlis
Peony grown from seed at Aspen Grove Gardens, by Robert Pavlis

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Seed Dormancy – Are Seeds Really Dormant?

I have always been fascinated with seed germination and seed dormancy. The idea that a complete plant can be grown from a small hard nugget of cells has to be one of natures best creations. As you become familiar with seeds you soon realize that the germination process is not as straight forward as you might think. For many plants you just can’t take seed, plant them, and have germination in a few days.

Every seed seems to require its own process for germinating. Some need to be stratified, some scarified, and some need cold-warm cycles. There are many options for getting seed to germinate and I’ll discuss these in a future post.

The term ‘dormancy’ is used to describe a seeds reluctance to germinate; or more correctly seed dormancy to distinguish it from plant dormancy. The seed lies dormant until environmental conditions are favorable for it to germinate – or at least that is the impression you are left with. But is the seed really dormant? What does dormancy really mean? Good questions that I’ll try to answer in this post.

seed doemancy, plant development diagram, gardenmyths
Plant development diagram, developed by

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