Southern Wild Comfrey

Andersonglossum virginianum (L.) J.I. Cohen

Cynoglossum virginianum var. virginianum line drawing
Britton, N.L., and A. Brown (1913); downloaded from USDA-Plants Database

Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
Boraginaceae (Borage Family)
State Protection
Listed as Endangered by New York State: in imminent danger of extirpation in New York. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Both the species as a whole and the subspecies/variety are common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

The genus name Cynoglossum is from the Greek "cynos", of a dog, and "glossa", tongue and refers to the rough, tongue-shaped leaf. The European Hound's-tongue, a close relative, was believed in ancient times to heal the bite of dogs and to keep dogs from barking. Our native wild comfrey has been used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes.

State Ranking Justification

There is one extant population and four historical populations.

Short-term Trends

The extant occurrence has not been known for more than one year.

Long-term Trends

We do know that there were about a half-dozen collections in the late 1800s to early 1900s, but only one occurrence has been reported since that time. Since this was likely limited to dry upland woods of Staten Island and limited areas of nearby Long Island, it may be safe to assume that these areas no longer have any suitable habitat.

Conservation and Management


There are invasive species in the area. The historical populations and suitable habitat within the likely range of this plant has likely been subject to intense commercial and residential development.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Invasive species need to be kept away from the site in Dutchess County.

Research Needs

A complete review of herbarium specimens of both Cynoglossum virginianum varieites is needed to verify the identity and determine the true range within the state. Model the species based on the find in Dutchess County.



A plant of upland woods and other shady areas (New York Natural Heritage Program 2005). Occasional in rich open woods and wooded slopes (Rhoads and Block 2000). Uplands woods (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Open deciduous woods (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Appalachian oak-hickory forest* (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on well-drained sites, usually on ridgetops, upper slopes, or south- and west-facing slopes. The soils are usually loams or sandy loams. This is a broadly defined forest community with several regional and edaphic variants. The dominant trees include red oak, white oak, and/or black oak. Mixed with the oaks, usually at lower densities, are pignut, shagbark, and/or sweet pignut hickory.
  • Coastal oak-beech forest* (guide)
    A hardwood forest with oaks and American beech codominant that occurs in dry well-drained, loamy sand of morainal coves of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Some occurrences are associated with maritime beech forest.
  • Limestone woodland* (guide)
    A woodland that occurs on shallow soils over limestone bedrock in non-alvar settings, and usually includes numerous rock outcrops. There are usually several codominant trees, although one species may become dominant in any one stand.
  • Oak-tulip tree forest* (guide)
    A hardwood forest that occurs on moist, well-drained sites in southeastern New York. The dominant trees include a mixture of five or more of the following: red oak, tulip tree, American beech, black birch, red maple, scarlet oak, black oak, and white oak.
  • Post oak-blackjack oak barrens* (guide)
    Open barrens on upper slopes and low ridges characterized by the presence of stunted individuals of post oak, scarlet oak, and blackjack oak. There is a sparse heath and grass ground cover growing in very dry, deep, exposed sand overlying a clay subsoil.

* probable association but not confirmed.


New York State Distribution

This plant has only been collected a few times on Staten Island and nearby Long Island. There are a few early reports from central New York, but these may represent cultivated plants or misidentifications. New York is at the north and eastern edge of its range.

Global Distribution

This is a more southern plant, ranging from Connecticut, southern New York, Indiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma, south to Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.

Identification Comments

General Description

This is a perennial wildflower that grows 1-2 feet high. The leaves at the base of the plant are 4-8 inches long and oval-shaped, with long petioles and a rough surface. They are 2-4 inches wide. There are also a few leaves on the flowering stems which are more lance-shaped and all have heart-shaped bases that clasp the stem. At the top of the leafless portion of the stem are a few branches with a group of small, 1/2" wide, five-petaled, pale lilac to white flowers at the ends. The petal lobes are rounded and overlap somewhat. The fruit consists of four bristly nutlets which become whitish with age.

Identifying Characteristics

Cynoglossum virginianum var. virginianum is about 40-80 cm tall and with only a few leaves on the stems. The stem leaves are sessile while the basal leaves are on large petioles. These basal leaves are 10-20 cm long and 5-11 cm broad. The calyx at the time of flowering is 3.5-4.5 mm long. The corolla is 1-1.2 cm broad, and pale lilac to white. The nutlets are 5.5-7 mm long. This plant is mostly restricted to southeastern New York, although a few disjunct populations have been reported from central New York.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

A plant in flower or fruit is needed for proper identification. Since there are two closely related varieties, a specimen should be collected to allow for later verification. A complete habitat description would be helpful as we are trying to learn more about this plants habitat requirements.

Similar Species

Cynoglossum virginianum var. boreale is a more northern variety that is smaller in stature, where at least some of the cauline leaves are distinctly petioled. The calyx at the time of flowering is 2-2.5 mm and the corolla 5-8 mm wide and normally blue. The nutlets are 3.5-5 mm long. Hound's-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) is a European species introduced here and now weedy. It is larger and more leafy with reddish purple flowers. Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is the old world Comfrey that has escaped cultivation. It has whitish, yellowish, or dull purple, bell like flowers only flaring slightly at the end. The leaves run down and merge gradually with the winged stem.

Best Time to See

The blue flowers of this plant are visible from mid-May to early June, and the fruits persist through August. Surveys are probably best conducted late May to early June, but you may be able to locate fruting plants later in the year.

  • Vegetative
  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Southern Wild Comfrey vegetative, flowering, and fruiting in New York.

Southern Wild Comfrey Images


Southern Wild Comfrey
Andersonglossum virginianum (L.) J.I. Cohen

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Dicotyledoneae (Dicots)
        • Order Lamiales
          • Family Boraginaceae (Borage Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Giant Forget-me-not
  • Hound's-tongue
  • Wild Comfrey


  • Cynoglossum virginianum L.
  • Cynoglossum virginianum var. virginianum

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Other References

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.

Rhoads, Ann F. and Timothy A. Block. 2000. The Plants of Pennsylvania, an Illustrated Manual. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA.

USDA, NRCS. 2004. The plants database, version 3.5 ( <>. National Plant Data Center <>, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research University of South Florida]. New York Flora Association, Albany, New York


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: June 22, 2005

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Andersonglossum virginianum. Available from: Accessed July 19, 2024.