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Am J Bot. 2007 Sep;94(9):1470-8. doi: 10.3732/ajb.94.9.1470.

Impact of global warming on a group of related species and their hybrids: cherry tree (Rosaceae) flowering at Mt. Takao, Japan.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02459 USA;


Climate change is affecting plant phenology worldwide. Phenological responses vary among species, but it is not clear how responses differ among closely related species. We examined a 25-yr record (1981-2005) of flowering times for 97 trees, representing 17 species and hybrids of cherry (Cerasus sp. or Prunus sp.) grown at Mt. Takao, in Tokyo, Japan. The cherry trees flowered earlier over time, by an average of 5.5 d over the 25-yr study. Earlier flowering was explained largely by a 1.8°C increase in February-March mean monthly temperatures. Most species and hybrids flowered 3-5 d earlier for each 1°C increase in temperature, but early-flowering taxa flowered as much as 9 d earlier for each 1°C increase in temperature. Flowering durations and differences in flowering times among species were greater in warm years than in cold years. Species and individual trees also flowered longer in warm years. These results show that the flowering times of closely related species may change similarly in response to climate change, but that early-flowering species may diverge from the overall trend in a predictable way. Such changes in flowering may affect gene flow and pollination as the length of the flowering season increases.

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