It has been shown previously that height growth and bud phenology are influenced by the temperature during zygotic embryogenesis in Picea abies. To test whether this phenomenon operates within individual plants, clones produced through somatic embryogenesis were used. Seeds were from a full-sib family produced in both a cold (outdoor) and a warm (inside a glasshouse) environment. Embryogenic clones derived from mature zygotic embryos from both crossing environments were cultured at 18, 23 and 28 degrees C during the proliferation and embryo maturation steps. After the second growing season in a glasshouse, plants from the warm seed production environment were taller and had significantly later bud set. For the first time, it is also shown that plants are influenced by the in vitro temperature during somatic embryo development. The warmer the temperature, the later the plants formed terminal buds. The differences were similar to those produced by a provenance separation of 4-6 degrees of latitude. The results indicate that there exists a mechanism in P. abies that operates during embryo development and adjusts the timing of bud set in accordance with the temperature conditions in which the mother tree lives. This in turn counteracts negative effects of gene flow among populations located along altitudinal and latitudinal gradients.