The influence of light and temperature on germination behaviour and the longevity of seeds were evaluated in four taxa of the genus Arthrocereus (Cactaceae). Germination experiments were conducted at six constant temperatures with a 12-h photoperiod and in continuous darkness. For in situ storage tests, the seeds were buried in the soil where the species naturally occur, and germination experiments were performed for 14 months. Seeds were also stored dry at room temperature in the laboratory for 12 months. The results indicated that, in spite of the variations between the four taxa studied, there is a consistent pattern in their germination behaviour. The seeds are small, with an absolute requirement of light for germination. In the presence of light, we obtained high germinability at temperatures between 20 and 30°C and low germination percentages at 10, 15 and 35°C. This behaviour may represent an adaptive mechanism during seasons when environmental conditions in open rocky fields are not favourable for seedling survival. In general, germination was relatively slow, which would favour establishment during the rainy season. Dry storage did not significantly alter seed germination behaviour, and buried seeds, likewise, remained viable and retained high germination percentages. We can therefore infer that the seeds of the species studied here are able to form persistent soil seed-banks. All studied species are threatened with extinction, so their ability to form soil seed-banks, together with the possibility of ex situ seed preservation, will possibly give support for future conservation efforts.