Current issue: 56(4)
Under compilation: 57(1)
Trees are particularly susceptible to climate change due to their long lives and slow dispersal. However, trees can adjust the timing of their growing season in response to weather conditions without evolutionary change or long-distance migration. This makes understanding phenological cueing mechanisms a critical task to forecast climate change impacts on forests. Because of slow data accumulation, unconventional and repurposed information is valuable in the study of phenology. Here, I develop and use a framework to interpret what phenological patterns among provenances of a species in a common garden reveal about their leafing cues, and potential climate change responses. Species whose high elevation/latitude provenances leaf first likely have little chilling requirement, or for latitude gradients only, a critical photoperiod cue met relatively early in the season. Species with low latitude/elevation origins leafing first have stronger controls against premature leafing; I argue that these species are likely less phenologically flexible in responding to climate change. Among published studies, the low to high order is predominant among frost-sensitive ring-porous species. Narrow-xylemed species show nearly all possible patterns, sometimes with strong contrasts even within genera for both conifers and angiosperms. Some also show complex patterns, indicating multiple mechanisms at work, and a few are largely undifferentiated across broad latitude gradients, suggesting phenotypic plasticity to a warmer climate. These results provide valuable evidence on which temperate and boreal tree species are most likely to adjust in place to climate change, and provide a framework for interpreting historic or newly-planted common garden studies of phenology.