Perception of photoperiod in individual buds of mature trees regulates leaf-out

Constantin M. Zohner, Susanne S. Renner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Experimental data on the perception of day length and temperature in dormant temperate zone trees are surprisingly scarce. In order to investigate when and where these environmental signals are perceived, we carried out bagging experiments in which buds on branches of Fagus sylvatica, Aesculus hippocastanum and Picea abies trees were exposed to natural light increase or kept at constant 8-h days from December until June. Parallel experiments used twigs cut from the same trees, harvesting treated and control twigs seven times and then exposing them to 8- or 16-h days in a glasshouse. Under 8-h days, budburst in Fagus outdoors was delayed by 41 d and in Aesculus by 4 d; in Picea, day length had no effect. Buds on nearby branches reacted autonomously, and leaf primordia only reacted to light cues in late dormancy after accumulating warm days. Experiments applying different wavelength spectra and high-resolution spectrometry to buds indicate a phytochrome-mediated photoperiod control. By demonstrating local photoperiodic control of buds, revealing the time when these signals are perceived, and showing the interplay between photoperiod and chilling, this study contributes to improved modelling of the impact of climate warming on photosensitive species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1023-1030
Number of pages8
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2015


  • Chilling
  • Day length
  • High-resolution spectrometry
  • Leaf-out
  • Phenology
  • Photoperiod
  • Trees


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