Seed Coat Effects
In some seeds dormancy is imposed by the presence of the seed coat; if this is removed, the seed germinates. Two possible types of mechanisms could be involved, one biochemical or physiological and the other purely mechanical.
The seed coat is nearly impervious to the diffusion of gases. Wareing's group found that seeds of Birch (Betula Pubescens), which would not germinate intact, would do so if the seed coat were scratched or broken. Moreover, added oxygen greatly stimulated germination of such damaged seeds. Evidently the embryos themselves were not dormant; they would germinate if isolated from the seed An alternative possibility is that the seed coat might prevent the leaching out of a diffusible inhibitor. The second, or mechanical alternative has been investigated by Y. Esashi and A.C. Leopold using seeds of Xanthium pennsylvanicum (also called Xanthium strumarium), the cocklebur.
This plant produces two kinds of seeds in each fruit large, non dormant ones and small, dormant ones. The investigators used the specially designed apparatus to show that neither type of seed generates enough force to rupture the testa during imbibitions. During growth, however, the large, non dormant seeds generate sufficient force to break it whereas the smaller dormant seeds do not. This shows, for Xanthium at least, that the long held opinion that the embryo must generate sufficient force during germination to rupture the seed coat is correct. Moreover, it is clear that the forces generated by imbibitions alone are not sufficient. Active growth is also needed.