Phenological events – deﬁned points in the life cycle of a plant or animal – have been regarded as highly plastic traits, reﬂecting ﬂexible responses to various environmental cues.
The ability of a species to track, via shifts in phenological events, the abiotic environment through time might dictate its vulnerability to future climate change. Understanding the predictors and drivers of phenological change is therefore critical.
Here, we evaluated evidence for phylogenetic conservatism – the tendency for closely related spe-cies to share similar ecological and biological attributes – in phenological traits across ﬂowering plants. We aggregated published and unpublished data on timing of ﬁrst ﬂower and ﬁrst leaf, encompassing ~4000 species at 23 sites across the Northern Hemisphere. We reconstructed the phylogeny for the setof included species, ﬁrst, using the software program Phylomatic, and second, from DNA data. We then quantiﬁed phylogenetic conservatism in plant phenology within and across sites.
We show that more closely related species tend to ﬂower and leaf at similar times. By contrastingmean ﬂowering times within and across sites, however, we illustrate that it is not the time of yearthat is conserved, but rather the phenological responses to a common set of abiotic cues.
Our ﬁndings suggest that species cannot be treated as statistically independent when modelling phenological responses.
Synthesis. Closely related species tend to resemble each other in the timing of their life-history events, a likely product of evolutionarily conser ved responses to environmental cues. The search for the underlying drivers of phenology must therefore account for species’ shared evolutionary histories.