Understanding seed physiology is central to reconstructing how angiosperms have evolved, to characterizing dormancy and germination regimes shared by suites of species, and to devising sound strategies for seed bank conservation, agriculture, and forestry. While species with dormant seeds have received the lion's share of attention, hundreds of plant species exhibit no seed dormancy and germinate either viviparously on the parent plant or shortly after release. Embryos of these recalcitrant and viviparous species cannot tolerate the maturation drying that is usually prerequisite to dormancy; such desiccation intolerance creates challenges for storing and preserving such embryos. I review the physiology, morphology, and ecology of these desiccation-intolerant, nondormant lineages. Differences in the production and function of plant hormones are implicated in the occurrence of recalcitrance and vivipary in plant families. Plant hormones are key regulators of seed physiology and simultaneously coordinate responses of the seedling and mature plant to their environment. Desiccation-intolerant embryos occur most commonly among species of wet or flooded environments and have evolved multiple times in disparate lineages. Natural selection in wetland environments simply may not eliminate these seed types or may select for changes in hormone physiology that simultaneously affect both maternal and embryonic tissues. Integrative data from ecological, genetic, and physiological studies are needed to elucidate evolutionary origins and maintenance of reproductive strategies in organisms.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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