The ability of plants to detect variations of light conditions is an essential mechanism for seed survival and germination. In this experiment, germinability and mean germination time were measured in five species of Asteraceae that are native to the tallgrass prairie in Kansas. Seeds were exposed to four light levels in a greenhouse experiment: 100% of natural light, approximately 50% of light, 10% of light, and dark conditions. Ageratina altissima (White snakeroot), Rudbeckia laciniata (Cutleaf coneflower), and Solidago ulmifolia (Elmleaf goldenrod) were non-photoblastic, as light levels had little effect on germinabilities. Aster drummondii (Drummond's aster) and Eutrochium purpureum (Sweet Joe-Pye weed) were positively photoblastic, as increasing light increased germinabilities. However, there were significant differences among species that might correlate with ecological roles. Ageratina altissima and R. laciniata had fast germinating seeds (< 5 d) and S. ulmifolia had slow germinating seeds (> 10 d) in all light levels. A. drummondii and E. purpureum had germination times that ranged from fast to intermediate to slow, depending on light levels. Mean germination times decreased with increased light. Measurements of germinability and mean germination time are essential for understanding establishment, succession, and regeneration processes that occur in prairie communities.
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