The involvement of the seed coat in low temperature germination of melon seeds was examined in two accessions differing in their ability to germinate at 14°C: `Noy Yizre'el' (NY) (a cold-sensitive cultivar) and `Persia 202' (P-202) (a cold-tolerant breeding line). Submerging the whole seed, or covering the hilum with lanolin, strongly depressed germination of NY, but not of P-202. Accessions differed in germination response to decreasing O2 concentration, with NY showing higher sensitivity to hypoxia. Intercellular spaces in the outer layer of the seed-coat were evident in the more tolerant P-202, while in the sensitive NY this layer is completely sealed. Sensitivity to hypoxia was greater at 15°C than at 25°C and was greater in NY than in P-202. It is proposed that the seed-coat imposed dormancy at low temperature in NY is the combined result of more restricted oxygen diffusion through the seed coat and a greater embryo sensitivity to hypoxia, rather than imbibition impairment or a physical constraint.