Many woody perennials, such as poplar (Populus deltoides), are not able to form flower buds during the first several years of their life cycle. They must undergo a transition from the juvenile phase to the reproductive phase to be competent to produce flower buds. After this transition, trees begin to form flower buds in the spring of each growing season. The genetic factors that control flower initiation, ending the juvenile phase, are unknown in poplar. The factors that regulate seasonal flower bud formation are also unknown. Here, we report that poplar FLOWERING LOCUS T2 (FT2), a relative of the Arabidopsis thaliana flowering-time gene FT, controls first-time and seasonal flowering in poplar. The FT2 transcript is rare during the juvenile phase of poplar. When juvenile poplar is transformed with FT2 and transcript levels are increased, flowering is induced within 1 year. During the transition between vegetative and reproductive growth in mature trees, FT2 transcripts are abundant during reproductive growth under long days. Subsequently, floral meristems emerge on flanks of the axillary inflorescence shoots. These findings suggest that FT2 is part of the flower initiation pathway in poplar and plays an additional role in regulating seasonal flower initiation that is integrated with the poplar perennial growth habit.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science
- Cell Biology