1 Research and Teaching Laboratory of Applied Botany, Biological Interactions and Ecological Engineering, Department of Biology, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu Campus, P.O.Box 111, 80101 Joensuu, Finland
Annual and interannual phenomena and canopy behavior of prickly comfrey (Symphytum asperum Lep.) were studied in a 10-year experiment with 25 measurement sessions during the growing season. The results confirm the importance of long-term experiments in studying plant phenomena, biometrics and behavior. Prickly comfrey produced a green canopy each year and growth started very early in spring. Maximum plant height was less than 160 cm. Annual phenomena (growth initiation, seedling phase, flower phase, seed phase, senescent phase), interannual phenomena (initiation and youth, reproduction, new generation formation, plant death) and two population cycles (colonization and expansion) were measured. The duration of annual development up to canopy death can be expressed as x+2x+3x+2x, where x is initial growth. The genetic structure and activity of prickly comfrey promotes generative development of the species. Its age can be measured over a single and several vegetation generations. The ability to change the angle of vertical stem growth after 9 weeks can be considered a functional behavior of prickly comfrey and part of its life strategy. The differences between the organs in the upper and lower parts are very considerable and should be taken into account in morphological descriptions of this species. The upper and lower stems and leaves showed differential growth. Both stem and leaves were densely setose. Old leaves were 3.8 times longer, 4 times broader and 2.4 times thicker than young leaves. Hairs were on average 3 times longer on old than on young leaves. Flowers had contact with pollinators making relatively long visits to them.
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