The phenology of spring leaf replacement was studied in a population of 46 evergreen scrub oaks (Quercus cornelius-mulleri) at the edge of the Mojave Desert in each of five years over the period 1990–2001. The oaks occupied a site that spanned rocky slopes to sandy bajadas. The site receives variable annual rainfall (estimated 12-yr average 195 mm; range in study years 67–706 mm). The spatial coordinates of all individuals were recorded, and in April, when leaf replacement was underway, individual replacement phenologies were assessed. Shrub sizes were recorded in three separate years, and in 2001 water potentials were measured.Individuals vary greatly in their timing of leaf replacement within years, and also between years. Many individuals with an early phenology one year are significantly later in the following year, and vice versa. While we detected weak influences on leaf replacement phenology due to shrub size, position within the site, and a genetic component, stronger influences were attributable to the phenology of the shrub in prior years, and to the phenology of neighbours within years. Neighbouring individuals that are close and/or large are significantly disparate in phenology, with one early and the other late. A potential mechanism of local resource depletion associated with costs to an early phenology is discussed.Abbreviation: LRP = Leaf replacement phenology; PSA = Photosynthetic area; RPH = Ranked leaf replacement phenologies.Nomenclature: Nixon & Steele (1981).