Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 167, Issue 3–4, pp 113–127 | Cite as

Chemotaxonomy of theSymphytum officinale agg. (Boraginaceae)

  • Tea A. Jaarsma
  • Elisabeth Lohmanns
  • Theo W. J. Gadella
  • Theo M. Malingré


In a chemotaxonomic study of the genusSymphytum pyrrolizidine alkaloids and triterpenes were used as chemotaxonomical markers. A micro-extraction methods was developed for screening compounds of very small pieces of herbarium material. The occurrence of the pyrrolizidine alkaloids symphytine and (acetyl-)lycopsamine is very general forSymphytum taxa. Echimidine is present in someS. officinale L. plants and inS. tanaicenseSteven. The triterpene isobauerenol is present inS. officinale, S. bohemicumSchmidt,S. tanaicense and inS. officinale var.lanceolatumWeinm. The chemotaxonomic hypothesis, proposed byGadella and collaborators, based on the presence of the triterpene isobauerenol inS. officinale and its absence inS. asperumLepech. and the presence of the pyrrolizidine alkaloid echimidine inS. asperum and its absence inS. officinale, can no longer be applied absolutely to theS. officinale species complex. The pyrrolizidine alkaloid and triterpene pattern ofS. officinale (2n = 24) andS. bohemicum (2n = 24) is identical.S. bohemicum is morphologically, cytologically and phytochemically very similar toS. officinale. Furthermore, it readily crosses with the white flowered W. European diploids ofS. officinale. Therefore it seems likely that these two taxa are conspecific.S. tanaicense shows a pyrrolizidine alkaloid and triterpene pattern similar toS. officinale (2n = 40). Also on morphological and cytological grounds they are very similar. It seems highly probable thatS. tanaicense is conspecific withS. officinale (2n = 40) and represents an intraspecific variant only.S. officinale var.lanceolatum contained no pyrrolizidine alkaloids but did contain isobauerenol. This feature points to an origin fromS. officinale.

Key words

Angiosperms Boraginaceae Symphytum S. officinale agg. Chemotaxonomy pyrrolizidine alkaloids isobauerenol 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tea A. Jaarsma
    • 1
  • Elisabeth Lohmanns
    • 1
  • Theo W. J. Gadella
    • 2
  • Theo M. Malingré
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of PharmacognosyState University of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Laboratory of Population and Evolutionary BiologyState University of UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands

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