D: Gesundheit! Is that allergies, or are you getting a cold, Yaël?
Y: I think I’m getting a cold, unfortunately.
D: Here, have some of my chicken soup. My mother always said it’ll cure a cold.
Y: Oh Don, I don’t know if I believe that.
D: Hey, mothers have a lot of good information to pass down. Even plant mothers to their seed offspring—apparently, they imprint information about when to germinate into their seeds’ genes. Seeds don’t germinate immediately after they develop—first, they spend some time in a dormant state. That period of dormancy is helpful for a couple reasons: it lets the seeds wait to germinate until the temperature is right—you wouldn’t want a seed germinating when it’s too cold, or it wouldn’t survive—and it also prevents all the seeds from germinating at once, in the same place, and competing for the same resources. One of the factors that affects how long that period of dormancy lasts—how deeply the seeds sleep, let’s say—is the temperature during the seeds’ development; the colder it is during those early stages, the longer the seed’s state of dormancy will be. That information is imprinted by the mother plant in the seeds’ genes—essentially turning certain genes off that regulate germination. When the time is finally right for the seed to germinate, that information gets erased so when that offspring plant makes its own seeds, it can imprint new information for the next generation.
Y: Sounds like plant moms give pretty helpful advice.