Background and Aims Understorey species in temperate deciduous woodlands such as wild daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) and common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) have complex dormancy: seeds that are shed in late spring require warm summer temperatures for embryo elongation and dormancy alleviation, but then cooler temperatures for germination in autumn. As seasons warm and tree canopies alter, how will different seasonal temperature sequences affect these complex dormancy responses? Methods The effect of different sequences of warmer (+5 °C), current or cooler (–5 °C) seasons (summer to spring) on seed germination patterns over seven successive seasons were investigated, with all sequences combined factorially to determine the consequences of differential seasonal temperature change for the temporal pattern of germination (and so seedling recruitment). Key Results Little (<1 %, G. nivalis) or no (N. pseudonarcissus) seed germination occurred during the first summer in any treatment. Germination of N. pseudonarcissus in the first autumn was considerable and greatest at the average (15 °C) temperature, irrespective of the preceding summer temperature; germination was also substantial in winter after a warmer autumn. Germination in G. nivalis was greatest in the warmest first autumn and influenced by preceding summer temperature (average > warmer > cooler); the majority of seeds that germinated over the whole study did so during the two autumns but also in year 2’s cooler summer after a warm spring. Conclusions Warmer autumns and winters delay first autumn germination of N. pseudonarcissus to winter but advance it in G. nivalis; overall, warming will deplete the soil seed bank of these species, making annual seed influx increasingly important for recruitment and persistence. This study provides a comprehensive account of the effects of temperature changes in different seasons on seed germination in these early spring-flowering geophytes and consequently informs how these and other temperate woodland species with complex seed dormancy may respond to future climate change.
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