The maternal environment determines the timing of germination in Pinus pinaster
Optimizing the germination timing is crucial for the establishment of new generations. We hypothesized that environmental maternal effects may be relevant in the fine tuning of this trait in a long-lived Mediterranean model tree. We analyzed the influence of maternal genotype, maternal environment and their interaction on the germination success and germination phenology of 8725 Pinus pinaster seeds collected from genotypes clonally replicated in two contrasting environments. Besides maternal genetic effects, the maternal environment significantly affected both the percentage and the timing of germination. Seeds from the more favourable environment germinated 7.5 days earlier and showed higher germination rate (0.93 ± 0.01 vs 0.85 ± 0.03). Seed weight significantly influenced germination time, but seed weight differences between maternal environments were not enough to explain this form of transgenerational plasticity. The effect of the maternal environment varied depending on the genotype, indicating that genetic variation in the sensitivity to the maternal environment in this pine species does exist.