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Braz J Biol. 2008 Feb;68(1):1-10.

Foliar growth of Eriocnema fulva Naudin (Melastomataceae) in a forest fragment in southeastern Brazil.

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Instituto Estadual de Florestas, Belo Horizonte, MG, 30160-030, Brazil.


Eriocnema fulva Naudin is an endangered herbaceous, perennial, iteroparous, evergreen species geographically restricted to southeastern-center Minas Gerais State, SE Brazil. The individuals occur as patches on rocky riverbanks shaded by seasonal semideciduous Atlantic forest; they are fixed by roots and have a pending stem. Aiming to investigate leaf development and its importance for individual survival, fifteen contiguous plots (1 x 1 m) were set down in Jambreiro Forest (19 degrees 58'-59' S and 43 degrees 52'-55' W, 800-1100 m altitude), in the municipality of Nova Lima. A total of 260 individuals with the largest leaf blade length > or = 1 cm was tagged and measured in 1997, 1998, and 1999. Leaf expansion was recorded each month during 26 months until April 2000. Plant size was measured through leaf blade length, petiole length, stem length, and number of leaves. Significant changes were detected only after two years, thus indicating that plant growth is slow. The proportion of surviving leaves after two years was 60%. Total blade expansion took over 14 months, a slow growth rate when compared to leaves of other tropical forest canopy and understory species. Long leaf lifespans are to be found in plants exhibiting slow growth, and we observed that some leaves lived longer than three years. Petiole growth can help to better position the leaf in the search for light, thus contributing to the growth and survival of the plant. The relationships among size measures were significant, reinforcing the great contribution of leaf size for plant size. The age of the largest individual was estimated as 36 years based on the median annual leaf production rate.

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