To determine optimum germination temperatures and effective dormancy-breaking procedures, field-grown (1983-85) seeds of `Bandera' Rocky Mountain penstemon (Penstemon strictus Benth), `Cedar' Palmer penstemon (Penstemon palmeri Gray), and firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii Gray) were subjected to various cold stratification and incubation temperature treatments. Increased germination following an 8-week stratification occurred in seed lots containing dormant seeds, but a 2-week stratification generally failed to break dormancy. Older (1983) seeds of `Bandera' and `Cedar' penstemon germinated to full viability without stratification. All species showed a marked decrease in germination percentage above 20C; 15C consistently produced maximum germination after 4 weeks. At 15C, mean times to 90% of total germination were 11, 22, and 29 days for `Bandera', `Cedar', and firecracker penstemon, respectively. Transfer of seeds failing to germinate at warm temperatures (25 and 30C) to 15C and applying 720 μm gibberellic acid (GA3) solution was effective in breaking primary dormancy of firecracker penstemon and secondary dormancy of `Bandera' penstemon. Our findings suggest that incubation below 20C, combined with 8 weeks of stratification or the use of after-ripened seed, may improve seed propagation efforts for these species.
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