Phenological displacement is uncommon among sympatric angiosperms

New Phytol. 2022 Feb;233(3):1466-1478. doi: 10.1111/nph.17784. Epub 2021 Oct 30.


Interactions between species can influence successful reproduction, resulting in reproductive character displacement, where the similarity of reproductive traits - such as flowering time - among close relatives growing together differ from when growing apart. Evidence for the overall prevalence and direction of this phenomenon, and its stability under environmental change, remains untested across large scales. Using the power of crowdsourcing, we gathered phenological information from over 40 000 herbarium specimens, and investigated displacement in flowering time across 110 animal-pollinated species in the eastern USA. Overall, flowering time displacement is not common across large scales. However, displacement is generally greater among species pairs that flower close in time, regardless of direction. Furthermore, with climate change, the flowering times of closely related species are predicted, on average, to shift further apart by the mid-21st century. We demonstrate that the degree and direction of phenological displacement among co-occurring closely related species pairs varies tremendously. However, future climate change may alter the differences in reproductive timing among many of these species pairs, which may have significant consequences for species interactions and gene flow. Our study provides one promising path towards understanding how the phenological landscape is structured and may respond to future environmental change.

Keywords: citizen science; convergence; divergence; geographic range; herbarium specimens; phenological sensitivity; phenology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Climate Change
  • Flowers
  • Magnoliopsida*
  • Seasons
  • Temperature