The genus Lycoris (Amaryllidaceae) is comprised of ≈20 species of herbaceous bulbs native to East Asia (Iqbal et al., 2006; Ren et al., 2017). Of these, 15 species of are distributed in China, including 10 endemics (Tsi and Meerow, 2000; Yuan, 2010). Lycoris species have great commercial potential because this flower has medicinal as well as ornamental value (Jin, 2002). Indeed, Lycoris species are grown as cut flowers, potted flowers, and garden cover throughout Europe, the United States, and Japan. The Netherlands, in particular, cultivates Lycoris species over an area of more than 600,000 m2 (Song et al., 2014).
Plants in the genus Lycoris have a period of summer dormancy and, uniquely, flower without leaves (Cui et al., 2004). This suggests that the summer growth rhythms of these plants are incompatible with the humid subtropical climate of their Chinese habitats (Wang, 1990). Based on sprouting time, leaves can be divided into autumn leaves and early spring leaves (Zhang and Cao, 2001). Lycoris species flower from July to September. However, the mechanisms underlying summer dormancy and flowering in this genus have not been fully characterized.
Lycoris radiata is a typical Lycoris species with autumn leaves (i.e., the leaves remain green throughout the winter) and beautiful bright-red flowers. Commonly known as the “Chinese tulip,” L. radiata is one of the two most widely cultivated Lycoris species (along with L. aurea) as a result of its beautiful color and flower morphology (Song et al., 2014). However, because it is difficult to regulate the flowering time of L. radiata effectively, this plant has been largely ignored by the global cut-flower industry (Cai et al., 2012; Meng et al., 2008). To address this knowledge gap, we therefore used L. radiata as a model Lycoris, and investigated summer dormancy comprehensively in three dimensions: phenologically, ecologically, and physiologically. Specifically, we studied the annual dynamics of biomass distribution, climate-associated phenology, and physiologic bulb characteristics. Our results give insights into the mechanisms underlying summer dormancy, and provide a framework for both future ecologic research on Lycoris and the industrial exploitation of other bulbous plants.
This project was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31560226) and the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institution (PAPD).
These authors contributed equally to this article.
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