While trait-based plant ecology attempts to use small numbers of organ-level traits to predict ecological strategies, there is a major gap between organ-level ecophysiology and plant fitness in an environmental context. Bridging this gap are whole-plant organisational traits, including reproductive timing and biomass allocation patterns.
Mason et al. explore the role of these traits in adaptation to diverse environments, using a phylogenetic comparative approach across wild sunflowers (Helianthus). Whole-plant organisational traits are shown to be just as important as organ-level traits in predicting ecological strategies in sunflowers, demonstrating that trait-based ecology can be strengthened through the explicit inclusion of whole-plant organisation.