Saturday, May 5, 2012

Wild Comfrey - Cynoglossum virginianum

Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum) is rare in Florida, found only in Gadsden and Liberty Counties in and around Torreya State Park.  As such, it has also been classified as a state endangered species. Like so many of our natives, confined around Torreya, it is much more widely distributed elsewhere outside of Florida. Wild comfrey is distributed north to Quebec and the Yukon in Canada, and westward in the U.S. to the Dakotas and Texas.  In Florida, wild comfrey occurs in the understory of deciduous hardwood forests. Here it blooms before the canopy closes and it gets protection from the summer sun after flowering has past.
Wild comfrey is a perennial herb in the Borage family.  It dies to the ground each winter and emerges in the spring.  For the most part, it exists as a basal rosette of broadly oval, fuzzy leaves.  Each is nearly 8 inches long and about 4-5 inches wide.  A flower stalk is produced from the center of this leaf cluster in spring and it eventually stands 2-3 feet tall.
Flowering occurs in March to very early April in Florida.  Each flower stalk has several side branches and each has a small cluster of small flowers.  Most often, these flowers are pale blue in color, but some are nearly white and a few are almost pinkish. 
Wild comfrey has never been offered for sale by any of the nurseries associated with FANN- the Florida Association of Native Nurseries and it is unlikely to be offered in the future.  As a relict species, wild comfrey is not widely adaptable to most Florida landscape settings. I have not tried to propagate this species though I suspect it could be found from commercial sources outside Florida.  In my opinion, this species is just another good example of an interesting part of our flora that should be looked for in the right places and admired there.

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