In this paper, we report the effects of heavy metals (HMs) (cadmium and mercury) on seed germination and seedling growth of Phragmites australis and Triarrhena sacchariflora, which are the two main typical emerging plants in Hongze Lake wetland. The results showed that there was a reduction in germination percentage, germination index and seedling length as HM concentration in the growing media increased for both treatments. The effect of HMs toxicity on seed germination and seedling growth of T. sacchariflora was more obvious than of P. australis. At the stage of seed germination, P. australis and T. sacchariflora were sensitive to Hg2 +  and Cd2 + , respectively, and Hg2 +  was more toxic than Cd2 +  at the stage of seedling growth. The effect of HMs toxicity is not invariable during plant growth. Compared to the stage of seedling growth, P. australis and T. sacchariflora are more susceptible to HMs at the stage of seed germination. In addition, we calculated the ecological thresholds of P. australis to Cd and Hg are 19.32 and 1.08 mg kg−1, and that of T. sacchariflora to Cd is 4.62 mg kg−1 based on the lab simulation. The results also indicated that the species of P. australis is more tolerant than T. sacchariflora to the HMs and is a better candidate for restoration in Hongze Lake wetland ecosystem.

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