Phenological patterns of Ficus citrifolia (Moraceae) in a seasonal humid-subtropical region in Southern Brazil

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Abstract

Year-round flowering is widely reported in fig trees and is necessary for the survival of their short-living, specialized Agaonid pollinators. However, seasonality in both fig and leaf production has been noted in almost all published phenological studies. We have addressed the following questions in the present study: (1) Are reproductive and vegetative phenologies seasonal and, consequently, related to climate? (2) Does Ficus citrifolia produce ripe figs year round? (3) Is the fig development related to climate? And, (4) Are reproductive and vegetative phenologies independent? By investigating these questions with a F. citrifolia population over a two-year period, at the southern edge of the tropical region in Brazil, we detected phenological seasonality that was significantly correlated with climate. Our findings can be summarized as follows: (1) Trees became deciduous during the cold and dry months; (2) The flowering onset was asynchronous among individuals, but with moderate concentration during the hot and rainy months; (3) There was a correlation between the onset of flowering and vegetative phenology, with significantly higher crop initiations in individuals with full-leaf canopy; (4) Fig developmental time was longer in cold months; and (5) Ripe fig production occurred year-round and was not correlated with climate. Our results suggest that there are strong selection pressures that maintain the year-round flowering phenology in figs, for we have observed little seasonality in the phenology of such species despite the strong seasonality in the environment.

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