Seasonal variation in daily insolation induces synchronous bud break and flowering in the tropics
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- Calle, Z., Schlumpberger, B.O., Piedrahita, L. et al. Trees (2010) 24: 865. doi:10.1007/s00468-010-0456-3
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In many temperate plants seasonal variation in day length induces flowering at species-specific times each year. Here we report synchronous bud break and flowering of tropical perennials that cannot be explained by seasonal changes in day length. We recorded flushing and flowering of more than 100 tropical trees, succulents and understory herbs over several years. We observed the following phenological patterns throughout the northern Neotropics: wide-ranging trees flush or flower twice a year at the Equator, but annually further north; many trees leaf out in February; in autumn, wide-ranging perennials flower 4 months earlier in Mexico than at the Equator. This latitudinal variation of phenology parallels that of the annual cycle of daily insolation, a function of day length and solar irradiation. Insolation has two annual maxima at the Equator, it rapidly increases in February at all latitudes, and between Mexico and the Equator its maximum shifts from the summer solstice to the autumn equinox. These unique, manifold correlations suggest that throughout the tropics insolation, rather than day length, may control the phenology of many perennials. Our observations significantly extend current knowledge of environmental signals involved in photoperiodic control of plant development.