Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Surprising spread of spring leaf-out times

Date:
June 18, 2014
Source:
Boston University
Summary:
Despite conventional wisdom among gardeners, foresters and botanists that woody plants all 'leaf out' at about the same time each spring, a new study found a surprisingly wide span of as much as three months in leaf-out times.

Rhodo Fargesii.
Credit: Richard Primack

Despite conventional wisdom among gardeners, foresters and botanists that woody plants all "leaf out" at about the same time each spring, a new study organized by a Boston University biologist found a surprisingly wide span of as much as three months in leaf-out times. Significantly, observations the past two springs of 1,597 woody plants in eight botanical gardens in the U.S., Canada, Germany and China suggest that species differences in leaf-out times could impact the length of the growing season and the activities of birds, insect and other animals and therefore must be factored into climate-change model predictions.

Related Articles


"As species distribution and abundance shift due to climate change, interspecific differences in leaf-out timing may affect ecosystem processes such as carbon, water, and nutrient cycling," reported the study in the journal New Phytologist. "Our open-access leaf-out data provide a critical framework for monitoring and modelling such changes going forward."

While previous researchers observed leaf-out for a limited numbers of species in a single location, this study uniquely obtained observations of the same species from gardens around the world. Notably, the order of leafing out of species was almost the same in different gardens and with different climates, suggesting that leafing out time is a fixed character of a species, like the shape of its leaves or flowers; some species tend to leaf out early others late.

"Prior to this study, no one would have suspected that there was so much difference in the leafing out times of different species," says BU Prof. Richard Primack, who recruited colleagues from around the world for the study. "At the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, some gooseberry and honeysuckle shrubs start leafing out mid-March and early April, and evergreen rhododendrons and pine trees don't start leafing out until two to three months later in late May or even June. These differences are quite striking."

The study showed that shrubs leafed out on average 10 days before trees and deciduous plants leafed out on average 17 days before evergreens. And certain groups of plants -- such as honeysuckles, willows, lilacs, and apples -- tended to leaf out early, while other groups -- such as oak, beeches, honey locusts, and grapes -- tended to leaf out late. As a result, forests will have flushes of new leaves over an extended period, which adds to the beauty of spring growth, but it also has implications for insect survival and for carbon dioxide absorption by forests.

"Leaf-out phenology affects a wide variety of ecosystem processes and ecological interactions and will take on added significance as leaf-out times increasingly shift in response to warming temperatures associated with climate change," the study said. "There is, however, relatively little information available on the factors affecting species differences in leaf out phenology."

Primack explained that as the climate warms, trees will tend to leaf out earlier in the spring, perhaps extending the growing season and affecting animal behavior. But this pattern will become complicated if the overall tree composition changes. For example, in eastern North America, maple and birch trees, which leaf out early, may be replaced gradually by more heat-tolerant oak trees, which tend to leaf out later in the spring.

The data was obtained by walking around each of the botanical gardens once a week and recording the appearance of first leafing out for all of the species. Leaf-out time was considered when the young leaves had emerged from their buds and their adult shape could be seen even though the leaves were still small.

Along with Primack, the team included Zoe Panchen (Carleton University), Birgit Nordt and Albert Dieter-Stevens (Berlin Botanical Garden), Elizabeth Ellwood (Florida State U.), Susanne Renner (U. of Munich), Charles Willis and Charles Davis (Harvard U.), Robert Fahey (Morton Arboretum), Alan Whittemore (U.S. National Arboretum), and Yanjun Du (Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing). Their next project will extend their observations to autumn to determine if there are also major differences among species in when trees change color and drop their leaves at the end of the growing season.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Boston University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zoe A. Panchen, Richard B. Primack, Birgit Nordt, Elizabeth R. Ellwood, Albert-Dieter Stevens, Susanne S. Renner, Charles G. Willis, Robert Fahey, Alan Whittemore, Yanjun Du, Charles C. Davis. Leaf out times of temperate woody plants are related to phylogeny, deciduousness, growth habit and wood anatomy. New Phytologist, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/nph.12892

Cite This Page:

Boston University. "Surprising spread of spring leaf-out times." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140618132003.htm>.
Boston University. (2014, June 18). Surprising spread of spring leaf-out times. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140618132003.htm
Boston University. "Surprising spread of spring leaf-out times." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140618132003.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

AFP (Nov. 25, 2014) Phnom Penh's only working elephant was blessed by a crowd of chanting Buddhist monks Tuesday as she prepared for a life of comfortable jungle retirement after three decades of giving rides to tourists. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Buzz60 (Nov. 24, 2014) A Swedish Adventure racing team travels to try and win a world title, but comes home with something way better: a stray dog that joined the team for much of the grueling 430-mile race. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins