Cynoglossum virginianum (Wild Comfrey)
|Also known as:||Northern Wild Comfrey, Wild Hound's-tongue|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade; dry woods, woodland edges, slopes|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||15 to 30 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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2 to 4 widely spreading clusters at the tip of the stem, each initially in a tight coil, unwinding and elongating with maturity. Clusters are mostly unbranched but occasionally fork. Flowers are bright blue-violet to nearly white, about 1/3 inch across, short-tubular with 5 spreading lobes, the lobes sometimes ragged around the edges. A white bead-like collar rings the mouth of the tube; stamens and styles are hidden inside the tube. The calyx behind the flower is densely hairy and about as long as the tube with 5 triangular lobes. Flower stalks are about 1/3 inch long and densely hairy.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are basal and alternate, oblong-elliptic, 2½ to 8 inches long, ¾ to 2¾ inches wide, toothless, stiff-hairy on both surfaces and around the edges. Basal and the lowest stem leaves are largest and stalked, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem; the middle and upper leaves are stalkless and clasp the stem.
Wild Comfrey is an uncommon forest species in the north central and northeast counties of Minnesota. It is easily identified by the sparsely flowered, coiling clusters at the tip of the stem, densely hairy stem, upper leaves clasping the stem, and bristly fruits. While there are herbal uses for Cynoglossum species, they are toxic to livestock and the bristly fruits can cause skin irritations. There are 2 recognized varieties: var. boreale, sometimes known as Cynoglossom boreale, is the northern species found in Minnesota, var. virginianum is a more southern species, more stout than var. boreale, its flowers with round, overlapping lobes and fruits ¼ to 1/3 inch long, where var. boreale flower lobes are more oblong and not overlapping, and fruits are mostly less than ¼ inch long.
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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Hubbard and Lake counties.
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