The differences in timing in bud burst between species have been interpreted as an adaptation to late frost events in spring. Thus, it has been suggested that the degree of frost susceptibility of leaves is species-specific and depends on the species’ phenology and geographic distribution range. To test for relationships between frost tolerance and phenology as well as between frost tolerance and distribution range across Central European tree species, we studied the frost hardiness of closed buds before bud burst and of freshly opened buds at the time of bud burst. We hypothesized that species with early bud burst and species distributed in eastern and northern areas were more frost tolerant than species with late bud burst and species distributed in western and southern areas. Frost hardiness was estimated by exposing twigs to 11 frost temperatures between −4°C and −80°C and by assessing tissue damage by the electrolyte leakage method. In contrast to our hypotheses, neither frost hardiness of closed buds nor frost hardiness of freshly opened buds were related to any variable describing species’ macroclimatic niche. Furthermore, frost hardiness of freshly opened buds did not differ among species. Thus, the investigated species with early bud burst take higher risks of frost damage than the species with late bud bursts. These findings indicate that frost hardiness might not play the key role in limiting the geographic distribution ranges previously anticipated.
Volume 45, 2020
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