Cynoglossum virginianum L.

Wild Comfrey, Houndstongue


CC = 6
CW = 5
MOC = 28

© SRTurner

Family - Boraginaceae

Habit - Perennial forb, with stout, woody taproots or short, stout rhizomes, usually not producing an odor when bruised or crushed.

Stems - Erect, to 90 cm, unbranched, moderately to densely pubescent with stiff, straight hairs and also much shorter, appressed hairs toward the tip, sometimes also with scattered patches of short, woolly hairs when young, leafless toward the tip.

Cynoglossum_virginianum_base.jpg Base of plant.

© SRTurner

Cynoglossum_virginianum_stem.jpg Stem and leaf base.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Basal and alternate, mainly located toward the plant base. Basal leaves relatively large, 10-30 cm long, 20-50 mm wide, the blade oblanceolate to spatulate, densely pubescent, entire, scabrous, tapered at the base into a long, winged petiole, grading abruptly into the stem leaves. Stem leaves sessile, entire, clasping, densely pubescent, lanceolate to oblanceolate, the lowermost leaves tapered at the base, the median leaves rounded to cordate at the base and usually strongly clasping the stem, rounded or angled to tapered to a usually sharply pointed tip, the surfaces moderately scabrous with stiff, more or less spreading, pustular-based hairs.

Cynoglossum_virginianum_leaf1.jpg Stem leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Cynoglossum_virginianum_leaf2.jpg Stem leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

Cynoglossum_virginianum_basals.jpg Basal leaves.

© DETenaglia

Inflorescence - Terminal loose scorpoid panicles, often appearing dichotomously branched, bractless, indeterminate. Inflorescence stalks hirsute.

Cynoglossum_virginianum_inflorescence.jpg Inflorescence.

© SRTurner

Flowers - Calyces actinomorphic, 5-lobed nearly to the base, the lobes 2-5 mm long, spreading or somewhat reflexed, oblong-elliptic to broadly lanceolate. Corollas 4-7 mm long, 5-lobed, broadly funnelform to trumpet-shaped, actinomorphic, pale blue. Stamens 5, alternating with corolla lobes, adnate to corolla tube, mostly included. Style to 1.1mm long, arising from between nutlets.

Cynoglossum_virginianum_flowers.jpg Flowers.

© SRTurner

Cynoglossum_virginianum_calyces.jpg Calyces.

© SRTurner

Cynoglossum_virginianum_corollas.jpg Corollas.

© SRTurner

Fruit - Schizocarps dividing into 4 nutlets, these 5-7 mm long, asymmetrically broadly obovoid, attached to the narrowly pyramidal gynobase at the tip (but appearing to be attached laterally toward the base), the attachment scar large and surrounded by a poorly developed rim, rounded or bluntly pointed at the tip, the surface with dense, stout, tapered, apically barbed tubercles, pale gray to nearly white or tan to dull brown.

Cynoglossum_virginianum_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© SRTurner

Flowering - April - June.

Habitat - Forests, open rocky woods, streambanks, pastures, ravines, ridges.

Origin - Native to the U.S.

Other info. - This distinctive species is found in Missouri predominantly in the southeastern quadrant. Outside of Missouri its range extends in a wide diagonal band from eastern Texas through New England. When in flower it is unmistakable, having big basal leaves and smallish inflorescences with random-pointing, pale blue flowers. The vegetative basal rosettes also have a characteristic appearance which is easy to recognize with a little practice.

The common name "wild comfrey" reflects that fact that herbalists have often confused this plant with true comfrey, Symphytum officinale, or have believed it to be a substitute for that Old World plant. Preparations made from the root have been used in traditional medicine to treat sores, itching, cancer, and respiratory infections. Cancer, gonorrhea, and genital itching were also thought to be helped by drinking a tea made from the roots. In more recent times the leaves were smoked like tobacco. However, many species in the genus contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are liver toxins.

Photographs taken in Brown Summit, NC., 4-29-03, and in the Red Hills of Alabama, 3-25-06 (DETenaglia); also at St. Francois State Park, St. Francois County, MO, 5-5-2010, Valley View Glade Natural Area, Jefferson County, MO, 4-26-2012, Glassberg Conservation Area, Jefferson County, MO, 5-13-2013, Rockwoods Reservation, St. Louis County, MO, 5-11-2014, Canaan Conservation Area, Gasconade County, MO, 5-3-2016, and Don Robinson State Park, Jefferson County, MO, 5-18-2017 (SRTurner).