Key messageWood density profiles revealed significant differences in wood formation along a precipitation gradient in the Congo Basin. The response of trees to climate change varies depending on leaf phenology properties.AbstractTropical forests face increasing pressures due to climate change and yet, the response of trees to varying climate conditions remains poorly understood. In the present study, we aim to fill some gaps by comparing the leaf phenology and the pith-to-bark wood anatomical variability of 13 common tree species of the Democratic Republic of Congo among three sites presenting contrasted rainfall regimes. We measured pith-to-bark density profiles on which we applied wavelet analyses to extract three descriptors, which we further used as proxies to describe and compare wood anatomical variability. They describe the growth periodicity, regularity and the amplitude of variations of the anatomical patterns. Our results show that evergreen species tend to have significantly higher anatomical variability where rainfall seasonality is more pronounced. Deciduous species, in spite of shedding leaves for longer periods in drier sites, did not show significant differences in their anatomical variability. The analyses of density profiles and phenology records suggest that the seasonality of precipitation influences both leaf phenology and cambial activity. The high intra-site variability in phenology and anatomy suggests that site-related micro-climate conditions also influence cambial activity.