• Flowering is a major developmental transition and its timing in relation to environmental conditions is of crucial importance to plant fitness. Understanding the genetic basis of flowering time variation is important to determining how plants adapt locally. • Here, we investigated flowering time variation of Capsella bursa-pastoris collected from different latitudes in China. We also used a digital gene expression (DGE) system to generate partial gene expression profiles for 12 selected samples. • We found that flowering time was highly variable and most strongly correlated with day length and winter temperature. Significant differences in gene expression between early- and late-flowering samples were detected for 72 candidate genes for flowering time. Genes related to circadian rhythms were significantly overrepresented among the differentially expressed genes. • Our data suggest that circadian rhythms and circadian clock genes play an important role in the evolution of flowering time, and C. bursa-pastoris plants exhibit expression differences for candidate genes likely to affect flowering time across the broad range of environments they face in China.
© 2012 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2012 New Phytologist Trust.