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Keywords:

  • autumn leaf colours;
  • female catkin;
  • leaf senescence;
  • mountain birch;
  • sexual reproduction

Abstract

Autumnal change in leaf colour of deciduous trees is one of the most fascinating displays in nature. Current theories suggest that autumn leaf colours are adaptations to environmental stress. Here I report that the number of ripening female catkins altered timing of yellow autumn leaf colours in mountain birch. The tree's autumnal colour change was brought forward if the tree matured plenty of female catkins. Since yellow colour pigments in leaves are unmasked as leaf nitrogen is re-translocated, sexual reproduction may alter resource allocation at times of leaf senescence. Thus, our current view on the reasons for leaf senescence has to be re-examined, and a novel evolutionary explanation is needed for the appearance of yellow autumn leaf colours.