Abstract The transition from primary dormancy to secondary dormancy was examined using upper cocklebur (Xanthium pennsylvanicum Wallr.) seeds. The non‐after‐ripened seeds with primary dormancy responded to chilling, anoxia, KCN, and NaN3 with an increase in germination. However, their maximal responses to these treatments only occurred after a period of water imbibition, probably a reflection of the increasing growth potential of the axial tissue which was accompanied by the increase in the capacities of respiration and ethylene production. On the other hand, the establishment of secondary dormancy was accompanied by a decrease in respiration and ethylene production of seeds, and in the growth potential of both axial and cotyledonary tissues. The decrease in growth potential of these tissues occurred regardless of whether they were excised from after‐ripened seeds or non‐after‐ripened seeds. It is inferred that the primary dormancy of cocklebur seeds is a state maintained in un‐germinated seeds for a long time through a spontaneous transition to secondary dormancy.
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