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Minimum spring temperatures at the provenance origin drive leaf phenology in sugar maple populations.

  • Guo, Xiali1, 2, 3, 4
  • Khare, Siddhartha4
  • Silvestro, Roberto4
  • Huang, Jianguo1, 2
  • Sylvain, Jean-Daniel5
  • Delagrange, Sylvain6
  • Rossi, Sergio1, 4
  • 1 Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded Ecosystems, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 723 Xingke Road, Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510650, China. , (China)
  • 2 Center of Plant Ecology, Core Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 723 Xingke Road, Tianhe District, Guangzhou 510650, China. , (China)
  • 3 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, 19(A) Yuquan Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing 100049, China. , (China)
  • 4 Département des Sciences Fondamentales, Université du Quebec à Chicoutimi, 555 boulevard de l'Université, Chicoutimi, QC G7H 2B1,Canada. , (Canada)
  • 5 Direction de la Recherche Forestière, Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec, 2700 rue Einstein, Québec, QC G1P 3W8, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 6 Department of Natural Sciences, University of Quebec in Outaouais (UQO), 58 Main Street, Ripon, QC J0V 1W0, Canada. , (Canada)
Published Article
Tree Physiology
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Dec 05, 2020
DOI: 10.1093/treephys/tpaa096
PMID: 32705120


Late frost can cause damage to trees, especially to the developing bud of broadleaf species in spring. Through long-term adaptation, plants adjust leaf phenology to achieve an optimal trade-off between growing season length and frost avoidance. In this study, we aim to assess ecotypic differentiation in leaf development of sugar maple populations planted in a common garden. A total of 272 sugar maple seedlings from 29 Canadian provenances were planted at the northern boundary of the natural range, and the phenological phases of bud and leaf development were monitored during spring 2019. The wide geographical area under evaluation showed a complex seasonal pattern of temperature, with spring warming occurring later in the north and close to the sea. Overall, leaf development lasted between 20 and 36 days, from the end of May to end of June. We observed different timings and rates of leaf development among provenances, demonstrating the occurrence of ecotypes in this species. Minimum April temperatures of the original sites were able to explain such differences, while maximum April temperatures were not significant. Seedlings from sites with colder minimum April temperatures completed leaf development earlier and faster. On average, leaf development diverged by up to 6 days among provenances, with minimum April temperatures ranging from -3 to 3 °C. Our results demonstrated that the avoidance of late spring frost is a driving force of leaf development in sugar maple populations. In the colder sites, the growing season is a limiting factor for tree growth. Thus, when thermal conditions become favorable in spring, an earlier growth reactivation and high metabolic activity ensure a fast leaf emission, which maximizes the period available for photosynthesis and growth. These patterns demonstrate the long-term phenological adaptation of sugar maple populations to local climatic conditions and suggest the importance of frost events for leaf development. © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: [email protected]

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