Limited impact of irrigation on the phenology of Brachychiton megaphyllus: A deciduous shrub that flowers while leafless during the tropical dry season

Patricia Bate, Donald Franklin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    A suite of woody plants inhabiting the seasonally dry tropics flower while leafless during the dry season, raising intriguing questions about the role of moisture limitation in shaping their phenology. Brachychiton megaphyllus is one such species, a shrub of open forests and savannas in northern Australia. We documented leaf and reproductive phenology of 14 shrubs, and irrigated a further 15, to determine if soil moisture affected leafiness and reproductive activity. Brachychiton megaphyllus showed first flower buds shortly after the cessation of wet-season rains, and budded and flowered throughout the dry season. In some plants, leaf flush occurred prior to the first rains. Rates of fruit set and maturity were very low. Irrigation did not significantly influence leaf shoot or subsequent canopy development. Contrary to expectation, irrigation decreased the production of buds and flowers though it had no impact on the production of fruit, a response for which we suggest a number of hypotheses. Phenological responses to irrigation may have been limited because B. megaphyllus responds primarily to cues other than soil moisture and is buffered against seasonal drought by a large tap root. This suggests mechanisms by which flowering while leafless may occur in a range of species. � 2015 Cambridge University Press.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)459-467
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Tropical Ecology
    Volume31
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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