Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 511–521
Flowering times of plants are important life-history components and it has previously been hypothesized that flowering phenologies may be currently subject to natural selection or be selectively neutral. In this study we reviewed the evidence for phenotypic selection acting on flowering phenology using ordinary and phylogenetic meta-analysis. Phenotypic selection exists when a phenotypic trait co-varies with fitness; therefore, we looked for studies reporting an association between two components of flowering phenology (flowering time or flowering synchrony) with fitness. Data sets comprising 87 and 18 plant species were then used to assess the incidence and strength of phenotypic selection on flowering time and flowering synchrony, respectively. The influence of dependence on pollinators, the duration of the reproductive event, latitude and plant longevity as moderators of selection were also explored. Our results suggest that selection favours early flowering plants, but the strength of selection is influenced by latitude, with selection being stronger in temperate environments. However, there is no consistent pattern of selection on flowering synchrony. Our study demonstrates that phenotypic selection on flowering time is consistent and relatively strong, in contrast to previous hypotheses of selective neutrality, and has implications for the evolution of temperate floras under global climate change.