- •Seasonal radial-increment and xylogenesis data can help to elucidate how climate modulates wood formation in conifers. Few xylogenesis studies have assessed how plastic xylogenesis is in sympatric conifer species from continental Mediterranean areas, where low winter temperatures and summer drought constrain growth.
- •Here, we analysed intra-annual patterns of secondary growth in sympatric conifer species (Juniperus thurifera, Pinus halepensis and Pinus sylvestris). Two field sites (xeric and mesic) were evaluated using dendrometers, microcores and climatic data.
- •A bimodal pattern of xylogenesis characterized by spring and autumn precipitation and subsequent cambial reactivation was detected in J. thurifera at both study sites and in P. halepensis at the xeric site, but was absent in P. sylvestris where growth was largely controlled by day length. In the xeric site J. thurifera exhibited an increased response to water availability in autumn relative to P. halepensis and summer cambial suppression was more marked in J. thurifera than in P. halepensis.
- •Juniperus thurifera exhibited increased plasticity in its xylogenesis pattern compared with sympatric pines, enabling this species to occupy sites with more variable climatic conditions. The plastic xylogenesis patterns of junipers in drought-stressed areas may also provide them with a competitive advantage against co-occurring pines.