, Volume 212, Issue 6, pp 985-998
Date: 17 Dec 2010

Tree specific traits affect flowering time in Indian dry tropical forest

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Abstract

Dry tropical forest tree species show variations in leafless duration (i.e. deciduousness), stem wood density (SWD), leaf mass area (LMA) and leaf strategy index (LSI, reflecting resource use rate) to overcome water limitations. We investigated the role of these tree traits in the seasonal timing of flowering and subsequent fruiting. Flowering and fruiting time of 24 tree species was recorded over two consecutive annual cycles and their relationships with the abovementioned tree specific traits were examined across the species. In leaf-exchanging species having higher SWD and LMA, low LSI and short deciduousness, flowering coincides with leaf transitional state when vegetative growth is at its minimum, and fruit formation and leaf flushing are both supported at the same time. However, >4-months-deciduous species with lowest SWD and LMA, higher LSI and longer deciduousness showed predominantly dry season flowering, subsequent fruiting on leafless shoots and distinct separation of vegetative and flowering phenophases. In contrast, intermediate species (<2 months-deciduous, 2–4-months-deciduous) showed wider flowering range through summer, rainy, autumn or winter seasons. Fruiting duration varies considerably with variation in the flowering time; ca. 5–14 months in summer flowering species; 7–12 months in rainy flowering species; 6–10 months in autumn flowering species, 4–9 months in dry season flowering and 3–7 months in winter flowering species. In most species, fruit maturation occurred just prior to the onset of rains, ensuring seedling survival. The ability of tree species to withstand (leaf-exchange) or avoid (deciduousness) drought stress and varying seasonal flowering timings appear to be the principal mechanisms for successful survival and reproduction under extremely dry and seasonal climate. Since environmental characteristics affect flowering and fruiting either directly (e.g. through conditions in the habitat) or indirectly (e.g. through deciduousness, LMA, SWD and LSI), the impact of probable global climatic change will have long implications on reproduction of dry tropical trees.