Main conclusionABA and GA metabolism during incubation rather than hormone contents in dry seeds is the key to understanding secondary dormancy and germination of Syngonanthus verticillatus seeds.AbstractThe mechanism of seed dormancy cycle, although very important for preventing germination during unfavorable periods for seedling establishment, is poorly understood in tropical species. Here, we used a perennial tropical species of the Brazilian campo rupestre, Syngonanthus verticillatus (Eriocaulaceae), to investigate the involvement of ABA and GA in modulating secondary dormancy of seeds buried in situ over time and the dynamic of these hormones during the incubation of dormant and non-dormant seeds. Hormone analyses were carried out with freshly harvested seeds and on buried seeds exhumed after 3, 6 and 9 months. Dynamics of ABA and GAs in dormant and non-dormant seeds during incubation (0, 12, 24 and 36 h) under favorable conditions for germination (at 20 °C in the presence of light) were also investigated. In addition, the effects of GA4 and fluridone were evaluated for overcoming secondary dormancy. Our results showed that changes in the contents of both ABA and GA4 occurred after burial, suggesting they may be related to the modulation of secondary dormancy/germination of S. verticillatus seeds. The application of fluridone was more effective than GA4 at overcoming secondary dormancy. We conclude that during incubation, de novo ABA synthesis and its consequent maintenance at high contents regulate the inhibition of germination in dormant seeds, while GA4 synthesis and ABA catabolism modulate the germination of non-dormant seeds. ABA and GA metabolism during incubation of both dormant and non-dormant seeds rather than hormone contents of dry seeds in the field is thought to be the key to understanding secondary dormancy and germination.