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Bing Liu, Hong Zhou, Sha Cao, Yi-ping Xia and Rajeev Arora

Seasonal deacclimation was investigated during Jan. to Mar. 2014 in leaves of 10 azalea cultivars (Rhododendron section Tsutsusi) under natural conditions in eastern China. Based on the midwinter leaf freezing tolerance (LFT), these cultivars were grouped as “more-hardy” vs. “less-hardy.” Eight of the 10 cultivars first showed deacclimation when daily mean temperature over 2-week period preceding the LFT measurement was ≈9.5 °C. Deacclimation for other two cultivars was somewhat delayed and might have involved deacclimation–reacclimation cycling before eventual deacclimation. Our data indicate that the “more-hardy” group deacclimated slower than the “less-hardy” ones over the first half of the deacclimation period. This trend reversed during the second half of the deacclimation period. Accordingly, “more-hardy” and “less-hardy” cultivars depicted a “curvilinear” and “reverse curvilinear/linear” deacclimation kinetics. “More-hardy” cultivars generally had higher total soluble sugars (TSS) than “less-hardy” ones at acclimated state. TSS declined during deacclimation in all cultivars, and the loss was positively correlated with the loss in LFT. Leaf starch content generally followed opposite trend to that of TSS, i.e., it was at lowest during acclimated state and increased during deacclimation.