Variation of Vitellaria paradoxa phenophases along the north-south gradient in Mali
We monitored flowering, fruiting and leafing of Vitellaria paradoxa (shea tree) along the north–south gradient in Mali (West Africa), using three study sites for a period of three years. In each site, adult shea trees were marked and monitored in permanent plots of both field and fallow stands. The chronology of phenophases and their mean length as well as flowering and fruiting were assessed. Our data revealed significant variation according to site and stand. The onset of events starts earlier in the south than in the centre or north, but the period covered by events was almost the same for all sites (3 to 6 months for flowering; 5 to 6 months for fruiting; and 2 to 4 months before full leafing).Flowering and fruiting were more regular in the south, but often as high in the north, with an almost similar trend in both fields and fallows. In the centre, flowering was also high in fields as well as in fallows, while the fruiting was medium to high. We also observed variations in the mean length of phenological events in study sites and stands. Sites in the south showed the highest average length of flowering and leafing (76 days and 44 days, respectively), while the central site showed the greatest length of mean fruiting (110 days). We observed a significant site*stand interaction and noticeable variation over the years. Our study indicates that phenological events of shea tree could be influenced by several interacting biotic and abiotic factors. A future research challenge in shea phenology would be to discriminate these factors and thus help sustainable management of shea tree parklands.