Physical dormancy (PY) was identified in six genera representative of Australian Rhamnaceae and subsequently was broken, based on identification of key seed dormancy characteristics: (1) isolation and classification of embryo features; (2) imbibition experiments to determine the rate and amount of water uptake in seeds; and (3) determination of optimum temperature regimes for germination. All six species had relatively large spatulate embryos. Imbibition studies showed all species possessed PY (i.e. a water-impervious seed coat) that was broken by a hot-water treatment. Alleviation of PY resulted in high germination (> 70%) at 7/18 degrees C, temperatures similar to winter in south-west Western Australia. Germination was suppressed at higher temperatures and in the presence of light. The study adds information to our knowledge of seed dormancy in Australian Rhamnaceae, and highlights the benefits of understanding dormancy states in seeds prior to evaluating dormancy-release mechanisms on wild species used in restoration ecology and horticulture.