When is the best time to flower and disperse? A comparative analysis of plant reproductive phenology in the Mediterranean

Jules Segrestin, Maud Bernard‐Verdier, Cyrille Violle, Jean Richarte, Marie‐Laure Navas, Eric Garnier

In seasonal climates, variation in environmental factors such as temperature, the availability of resources and pollinators, hazards, etc. places strong constraints on the timing of plant developmental cycles. In particular, the timing of reproductive events is key for evolutionary and ecological success in plants, by affecting both survival and reproduction. When plants flower has been observed and studied for centuries, but much less is known about how long it takes for seeds to mature and when seeds disperse. This study describes the timing of flowering and seed dispersal, and the time required to mature seeds, in 138 species growing in the strongly seasonal climate of Mediterranean southern France. We assessed the match between the timing of these three phases and local climatic conditions, and tested the degree to which they were coordinated. While the time slot for flowering appears restricted to periods with adequate temperature and water availability for most species, the seed maturation period and dispersal phase were much more variable between species. Dispersal date was tightly linked to the ability of plants to mature their seeds during the summer drought. We found that species could be arrayed along a fast-slow continuum, running from early flowering species with fast seed maturation and early dispersal to late flowering species with longer seed maturation periods and late dispersal. Indeed, later flowering allows longer vegetative growth and potentially more reserves to ensure seed maturation under water deficit conditions. Whether this relates to the postulated fast-slow continuum identified for the short term functioning of vegetative organs is a promising avenue for future research.

Read the paper here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s