1 The phenology of temperate woody plants is commonly assumed to be locally adapted to climate.
2 However, the high gene flow expected in forest tree species, the high between year variance of thermal conditions at a given place and the high plasticity of phenology regarding temperature, lead us to hypothesize that genetic variation of phenology between populations is likely to be insignificant for many lowland tree species.
3 Using phenological models, we investigated variation in the timing of flowering between locations for four European clonal trees and between different populations of a further five species.
4 Models were also used to study the responses of the different populations to climate change by simulating transfers of each population to different locations.
5 While clinal variations can be observed in the phenological response to temperature between populations, only one species (Corylus avellana) showed significantly different responses between populations and even then only one of three populations could be separated from the others.
6 Hypothetical transfers show that the differences observed between populations depend on the thermal conditions at the location of transfer, and that these differences are less marked in warmer conditions.
7 Our results indicate that local adaptation will probably not be a serious constraint in predicting the phenological responses of temperate lowland tree species to global warming.