Clinal genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity in leaf phenology, growth and stem form in common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.)

Rosique-Esplugas, C.; Cottrell, J.E.; Cavers, S.; Whittet, R.; Ennos, R.A.. 2022 Clinal genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity in leaf phenology, growth and stem form in common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.). Forestry, 95 (1). 83-94.

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Genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity play a role in determining the performance of a tree provenance at a planting site. This paper explores their relative importance in determining growth, phenology and tree form in a broad geographic sample of 42 British provenances of common ash (Fraxinus excelsior L.) grown at two contrasting trial sites. We found significant genetic differences for tree height, timing of leaf flushing and leaf senescence, and stem forking among the provenances. These followed a clear latitudinal and climatic cline, where the northern provenances were shorter, their leaves flushed later and senesced earlier than the southern provenances. Provenance explained a much larger proportion of the variance for spring phenology (63 per cent) than for autumn phenology (15 per cent). The effect of the planting site was contrasting between spring and autumn: spring phenology showed very little plasticity, while autumn phenology presented higher levels of phenotypic plasticity. This could indicate that for ash spring phenology is under stronger selective pressure. We found a correlation between tree height, leaf phenology and forking, with early flushing provenances tending to be taller and more forked, which could reflect repeated frost damage. The findings underline the complexity of predicting performance in novel environments and demonstrate that small gains in tree growth may be counteracted by detrimental effects on stem form, a key contributor to timber value, due to susceptibility to the contemporary environment.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0015-752X
NORA Subject Terms: Botany
Date made live: 27 Jul 2021 15:47 +0 (UTC)

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