Flowering time is a well-studied subject in ecology, evolution and molecular biology. Long-term phenological studies have shown relationships between flowering time and environmental and endogenous factors in many species. In contrast, molecular studies using model plants have revealed a complex regulatory network of flowering. We propose that flowering would be a model trait for the integrated study of ecology, evolution and molecular biology. We introduce briefly the flowering regulatory pathways of Arabidopsis thaliana, followed by molecular techniques such as transgenic manipulation, quantitative real-time PCR and detection of differentially expressed genes that could facilitate the study of ‘nonmodel’ species of ecological interest but with little available genome information. Application of the flowering gene network to wild species will be illustrated by two examples: modeling and prediction of the expression of flowering genes in Arabidopsis halleri, and the latitudinal cline of bud set and cessation in Populus.
Finally, we discuss the challenges in integrating knowledge
of the regulatory network on flowering into ecologically
unique flowering phenomena such as synchronous intermittent mass flowering—the topic of this special issue.