The physical dormancy of seeds has been poorly studied in species from tropical forests, such as the Atlantic Forest. This study aimed to examine the effect of moderate alternating temperatures on breaking the physical dormancy of seeds, the morphoanatomy and histochemistry of seed coats, and to locate the structure/region responsible for water entrance into the seed, after breaking the physical dormancy of seeds of two woody Fabaceae (subfamily Faboideae) species that occur in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest: Sophora tomentosa and Erythrina speciosa. To assess temperature effect, seeds were incubated in several temperature values that occur in the Atlantic Forest. For morphological and histochemical studies, sections of fixed seeds were subjected to different reagents, and were observed using light or epifluorescence microscopy, to analyze the anatomy and histochemistry of the seed coat. Treated and non-treated seeds were also analyzed using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) to observe the morphology of the seed coat. To localize the specific site of water entrance, the seeds were blocked with glue in different regions and also immersed in ink. In the present work a maximum temperature fluctuation of 15ºC was applied during a period of 20 days and these conditions did not increase the germination of S. tomentosa or E. speciosa. These results may indicate that these seeds require larger fluctuation of temperature than the applied or/and longer period of exposition to the temperature fluctuation. Blocking experiments water inlet combined with SEM analysis of the structures of seed coat for both species showed that besides the lens, the hilum and micropyle are involved in water absorption in seeds scarified with hot water. In seeds of E. speciosa the immersion of scarified seeds into an aniline aqueous solution showed that the solution first entered the seed through the hilum. Both species showed seed morphological and anatomical features for seed coats of the subfamily Faboideae. Lignin and callose were found around all palisade layers and the water impermeability and ecological role of these substances are discussed in the work.

Keywords: physical dormancy, seeds, tropical woody Fabaceae, water gaps