In the tropical montane cloud forest of Veracruz, Mexico, most canopy trees are deciduous, whereas the understory is composed of small broadleaved evergreen trees and shrubs. In this study, I tested the hypotheses that (1) leafing and flowering in the understory occur when the canopy is most open; and (2) a shift in phenological patterns occurs in plants growing at the forest edge. In two microhabitats (interior and edge) at each of three study sites, foliar and reproductive phenologies were recorded in five shrub species (Eugenia xalapensis, Miconia glaberrima, Moussonia deppeana, Ocotea psychotrioides, and Palicourea padifolia), and canopy openness and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) were measured monthly for 36 months. Canopy openness was greatest from November through February; however, PAR was highest during January–March. Leaf drop of the shrubs was continuous during the year. Leafing occurred throughout the year for Miconia, Moussonia, and Palicourea; leafing coincided with maximum PAR for Ocotea, but occurred during March–April for Eugenia. Flowering peaked from December to May, but Miconia, Moussonia, and Ocotea peaks coincided with levels of maximal PAR and were displaced by one month with respect to maximal canopy openness; the Palicourea flowering peak was negatively correlated with canopy openness. Fruiting was extended from March to October, coinciding with tree canopy fruiting. The results indicated that leafing and flowering in the understory started earlier than in the forest canopy. Leafing and flowering were synchronous in the interior and forest edge, but there was a weak trend for reduced peaks at the edge. The hypotheses were not supported: phenological patterns were temporally displaced between forest strata, but only three shrub species produced leaves and flowers during maximum PAR in the understory; there were no differences in phenological patterns between forest interior and edge.
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Vol. 35 • No. 1